‘Truly commendable’ Indigenous Garden opened in Thorold park

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Published April 24, 2023 at 11:12 am

A new Indigenous Unity Garden was unveiled at Mel Swart Lake Gibson Conservation Park in Thorold on Saturday.

A three-hour unveiling contained a week’s worth of activity when the new Thorold Indigenous Unity Garden was unveiled at Mel Swart Lake Gibson Conservation Park on Saturday (April 22).

The ceremony included a special planting of paw paw trees, traditional songs and dances, a wildflowers workshop, a seven grandfather’s teachings workshop and a powerful teaching by the Water Walkers on nurturing a relationship with land and water.

“This Indigenous Unity Garden is more than a place to reflect and take in the beautiful setting along the lake; it is an outdoor classroom led by Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers and storytellers who will share their traditions, culture and knowledge through various workshops and teachings,” said Michele-Elise Burnett, President of Kakekalanicks at the ceremony.

Burnett also noted “Thorold’s unwavering commitment to this legacy project is truly commendable; their dedication has set a new bar in working collaboratively with the Indigenous Peoples, and I hope to see other municipalities in Niagara and beyond emulate this in the future.”

Shaped like a turtle, the city says, “The Garden serves as an inclusive outdoor classroom where people from all nations can come together to reflect, renew, celebrate, learn, and discover through ongoing Indigenous teachings, interactive workshops, and activities that will help deepen a stronger understanding of Indigenous culture and tradition and their incredible global contributions.”

The Garden is Niagara’s first Indigenous outdoor classroom with ongoing programming and offerings.

Thorold Mayor Terry Ugulini added, “On behalf of City Council and Staff, I’d like to express my gratitude to Michele-Elise Burnett, President of Kakekalanicks and the One Thorold Truth and Reconciliation Committee for their guidance and partnership on the new Indigenous Unity Garden.”

“I am proud to say that Niagara’s first Indigenous outdoor classroom space with ongoing programming is home to Thorold. We warmly invite residents and visitors to participate in the programming that will be introduced throughout the year, aimed at celebrating the values and richness of Indigenous culture in our Community.”

To learn more about this unique park, check HERE.


The new Indigenous Unity Garden was unveiled at Mel Swart Lake Gibson Conservation Park in Thorold is shaped like a Turtle. Several centuries back, the Indigenous community called North America “Turtle Island.”

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