A First Peoples' Memorial Grove
Ottawa Canada

Twelve thousand years ago, this land was freed from the last ice age.

Eight thousand years ago, the melt water from the ice, the Champlain Sea, receded.

Ever since, there have been people on this land.

For those eight thousand years, the land was healthy and the people survived.

As all people have, they searched to understand life about them, great and small.

The ultimate source of life on our earth is the sun. All life exists by grabbing some of its energy as it flies by us off to the cosmos. This is basic physics, but it began as a source of human spirituality.

Our sun defines a line across the sky. It rises in the east, to bring us light and warmth, then descends in the west, to reveal darkness and cold.

Drawing a line, the simplest one-dimensional structure, across a plane, the simplest two-dimensional thing, defines four directions. The east is where the sun rises, the west where it vanishes. All the directions on one side of the line are the north, from whence the cold air of fall and winter come. All the directions on the other are the south, from whence the warm air of spring and summer come. This is the basis of mathematics, the geometry of one dimension meeting two dimensions.

And so it was that Mogadishu, the One Who Came Before, the source of all life, became the sun with four directions, tentacles as it were, reaching out to include all living things and to be part of all living things.

Black walnut is one of the crops planted by the First People. Indeed, in 1877, Mohawk plantation near Caledon was the largest nut growing operation in all of Canada.

And so it was that on 1 May 2002, the grade 4 and 6 classes of Blossom Park Public School in Ottawa presented Mohawk elder Paul Skanks, and me, with ceremonial gifts of tobacco, joined with us in a prayer of thanks to our Mother Earth and all living things, then planted out 60 black walnut trees that the grade 6's had started from seed two years before.

The layout of the trees is a central patch with four rays reaching out into the surrounding land. Each tree was planted in the traditional way with a pinch of tobacco, to carry its spirit of life to all the world around it.

Matt Micucci presenting Paul Skanks with a ceremonial gift of tobacco.

the pouch of tobacco presented to me by the students, of hand-made paper, hand stitched.

John Sankey