Gitche Namewikwedong

Reconciliation Garden

By Susan Staves

“Reconciliation requires constructive action on addressing the ongoing legacies of colonialism that have had destructive impacts on Aboriginal people’s education, cultures and languages, health, child welfare, administration of justice, and economic opportunities and prosperity.”

What we have learned: Principles of truth and reconciliation, Principles of Reconciliation #4 (1.)

Essential to our way of life, is the connection we have with the land (Aki), known as Turtle Island.

The land is where our Ancestors are buried; their spirits protect and care for Aki. Our way of life is based in spirituality, plant-based medicine, dance,music and art, and a belief that we are all a part of creation, nurtured by the gifts of Mother Earth who is a powerful healer and Mother to all our Relations. The Gitche Namewikwedong(2) Reconciliation Garden Project Committee was established in 2010, with the view of building a permanent healing and reconciliation garden that recognizes and celebrates the Indigenous history that exists at the City of Owen Sound’s Kelso Beach Park.


2. Gitche Namewikwedong means: Great Sturgeon Bay, which was the name of the bay before contact

Since 2010, the Gitche Namewikwedong Reconciliation Garden Project Committee has worked with the City of Owen Sound, as well as Indigenous and mainstream stakeholders, to develop a detailed plan for an art and historical installation in an Indigenous garden at Kelso Beach Park, formerly and historically the site of the original Newash Village. To date, there is no visible acknowledgement indicating the existence of a historical Saugeen Ojibwa Nation’s village on the land, anywhere in Kelso Beach Park.

The Saugeen Ojibwa Nation (SON) territory is the home of the Anishinabek, understood as “the original people”. Our language is Anishinaabemowin. We are part of the three fires confederacy located in the Great Lakes area, which consisted of the Ojibway or Chippewa, “Keepers of the Faith”, the Odawa or Ottawa, “Keepers of Trade”, the Bodewadmi or Potawatomi “Keepers of the Fire”.

SON territory extends from the Nottawasaga River across to Goderich, including the Maitland Valley river system, and north to Tobermorey. Our territory also includes all of the fishing islands and the waters surrounding our territory.

The Garden will help all cultures within our community move forward with shared understanding and respect, humility and love in our hearts; it will help all to walk softly and be ever mindful. The art pieces will share Indigenous culture and healing practices. The Sturgeon Installation brings with it the 7 dodem teachings and family names. The indigenous plants in the gardens will tell stories and legends of the history of the location. The project will reclaim place, culture, ecology and wellness. Several interpreter plaques will be placed to educate, inspire and encourage further research by visitors.

To develop this project, we have engaged community organizations, Elders from two reserves and two Métis communities who are knowledge holders in our region, using their input and cultural knowledge. We are proud to acknowledge and celebrate the history and culture of the First Nations and Métis peoples of the Grey Bruce area.

Our goal is to provide ongoing opportunity for healing historic trauma for all Nations. Through the development of a Memorial Garden, pain can be remembered, mourned, and transformed making possible a new way for healing and reconciling. In the Spirit of Reconciliation, the garden will be a contemplative place where our community can pause, reflect and remember, learn about the past legacy of residential school and the intergenerational trauma that still exists today.

The project will be sited on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibwa Nation, very close to the original Nawash Village. The project will help our community move forward with shared understanding and respect, humility and love in our hearts, walk softly and be ever mindful.

The goals of the project are to acknowledge our first peoples’ presence, on this traditional territory, in the past, present and future; to reclaim place, culture, ecology, and wellness; and to educate all nations about the legacy of residential schools, and help build better relationships through reconciliation.

Our goals will help address the healing needs of Aboriginal people affected by the legacy of the residential school system, including intergenerational impacts.

Our hope is that all nations will honour the cultural and spiritual teachings. Together we will walk the sacred path of truth and honour and build a better future, walking in a sacred way. What we do today, is for future generations. Through traditional stories, and Indigenous plantings we will honour and remember our First Nations and Métis Ancestors. With open and friendly dialogue, we strive for mutual understanding, balance, and unity for the people of our community so that we may move forward together, in a good way, and with one heart.

Having the history of local First Nations made public and accessible in the garden, will help establish common ground and start conversations: a place for people of all nations to gather at culturally significant times of the year. We will make the current “invisible” presence and History of Indigenous people “visible” to people walking through the Garden.

Increasing the awareness and respect for long ignored history, culture and traditions of our local Indigenous peoples will help our community address continued racism and colonialism. We will pray together in the garden, once finished. We expect ceremonies such as weddings, baptism, church and vacation bible schools to be held in the garden, public events and celebrations such as Aboriginal Day, solstice and equinox. Furthermore, schools and children can visit and experience local history, traditional language, and art—developing new relationships and understanding, which celebrates healing and reconciliation within our communities. The Garden is a place to reflect, to sit with Grandfather and Grandmother Stones, to enjoy Indigenous sacred plants and trees, and to inspire a deeper understanding of our community. The Garden will encourage conversations about the residential school legacy, the intergenerational impacts that are felt today, racism and discrimination. We will learn and promote healthy ways to live.

The Garden was dedicated July 1st 2017, as part of Owen Sound’s Festival Canadian “Maawanji’iding” (The Gathering).

The Gitche Namewikwedong Reconciliation Garden Committee is proud to offer you a wonderful opportunity to sponsor our Reconciliation Garden. Your contribution will be tax deductible.

Please help us reach our goal by making a direct contribution at

or if you wish, send a cheque with a note Re: Gitche Namewikwedong Reconciliation Garden to:

Francesca Dobbyn

United Way Bruce Grey

380 9th Street East Owen Sound

N4K 1P1

Chii Miigwech!

Thank you for your Support!

Susan Staves
Susan Staves is the Chair of the Gitche Namewikwedong Reconciliation Garden Committee. Susan was born in Meaford Ontario and currently works for the Métis Nation of Ontario/Great Lakes Métis Council in Owen Sound. She is the proud mother of four children, 8 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. Susan is a member of Chippewas of Nawash at Neyaashiinigmiing and is part of the Ontario 60 Scoop Legacy. In 2009 Susan received the Ontario Heritage Trust Community Recognition Award for cultural heritage in recognition of her work in preserving and promoting aboriginal local History. Seven years ago, at an Ancestor Ceremony at the memorial site of her grandmother, Susan had the great honor of receiving the name of her aboriginal ancestor Nahnebahwequa Standing Upright Woman.