For the past six weeks, I’ve been working with other members of RISEdmonton (Reconciliation in Solidarity Edmonton) to make this heart garden happen. The group’s founder, Miranda Jimmy, was inspired to do this project by the one being installed during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s closing events in Ottawa, as well as ones that were popping up across the country. She led the charge and the rest of us eagerly joined in. Using a Make Something Edmonton project accelerator grant, Miranda scooped up all the wooden hearts she could find at craft stores across the city then glued them to sticks. Community volunteers from the age of 3 to 70+ gathered for two work bees in space donated by Trinity United Church to decorate the hearts, then Miranda sealed them and cured them in her home.
On the morning of the heart garden, Miranda delivered the 1000+ hearts, and RISE members from across the city brought the additional hearts they had created to the southwest lawn of Edmonton’s City Hall. We gathered in a circle to participate in a traditional smudging ceremony with a local Elder, where RISE members ritually cleansed themselves and the hearts with the smoke of sage and sweetgrass. In this welcoming, inclusive environment, we were all invited to reflect on what brought us together and celebrate our work toward reconciliation.
It was a tremendously moving experience reading the messages of hope, compassion, understanding from survivors of residential schools, descendants of settlers, and newcomers. There were also pleas for help in healing. Many of us teared up reading them, imagining the hurt, loneliness and trauma of the “child taken and the parent left behind”.
My hope is that communities across the country can be inspired by this initiative. If you would like to learn more about it and RISE, please visit our Facebook page or get in touch.
Thank you to everyone who encouraged, supported, and promoted this work through the media, social media, and your networks. Let’s spread the word: we’re all in this together!