Natives share their vision of nature
The First Nations Garden, open since August 3, 2001, presents the close bonds Amerindians and the Inuit have always had with the plant world. It is designed to evoke a natural environment, and is the first infrastructure of its size anywhere in Montréal dedicated to the First Nations of Québec. The 2.5 hectare garden is the culmination of three years' work and the realization of one of Brother Marie-Victorin's dreams.
The planned site for the First Nations Garden was already planted with a highly diverse stand of trees. Today, it boasts more than 300 different plant species-some 5,000 trees, shrubs and grasses were planted. The First Nations Garden is set in the very heart of the Montréal Botanical Garden, between the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, the Pond Garden, the Flowery Brook and the Alpine Garden.
Discovering the culture of the first inhabitants of North America
The First Nations Garden serves as a crossroads of cultures, a place for sharing knowledge, allowing non-Native Quebeckers to discover or rediscover the culture of the first inhabitants of North America, while offering an opportunity for the First Nations to share their traditions, wisdom and know-how. The Botanical Garden and a committee of First Nations representatives specially formed for this project worked closely to come up with a set of guidelines and criteria to be integrated into the project concept and design.
Florent Vollant, an Innu singer-songwriter, readily agreed to act as spokesman for the First Nations Garden, "in a spirit of sharing and respect for differences, and to break down the barriers of ignorance and intolerance between Native and non-Native peoples."
The First Nations Garden avoids stereotypes; it is a contemporary garden, one inspired by Amerindian and Inuit cultures. It highlights not only Native knowledge of plants, but also First Nations activities relating to the plant world, from gathering food and medicinal plants to using wood and trees to make things and build and transport their homes, and growing plants, mainly corn, squash and beans.
These themes are addressed in different ways. There are interpretation panels, interactive terminals, visitor activities, shows, special events, etc. These learning, sharing and communication tools are found in the five zones of the Garden: the hardwood forest, the softwood forest, the Nordic zone, the interpretation pavilion and the gathering areas. In addition, paths, plant interpretation panels and guided tours by Native interpretation staff will help visitors explore and learn from this thematic garden. The pavilion also houses a permanent exhibition including a slide show on contemporary Native lifestyles.