Gardening Class Joins Students, Elders

Nov 15th, 2000 | By | Category: 12-2: Land is Life, Tribal College News

Turtle Mountain Community College offered a new course last summer, introduction to gardening. Started to benefit students and elders, the course ultimately involved the whole community. The class was initiated after the college brought in a master gardening extension class over the telecommunication system last winter, and several college personnel received their Master Gardener Certificates.

The summer class focused on hands-on learning rather than reading a textbook or being in a classroom. Students earned three credits by working on the gardens at the Turtle Mountain Retirement Home. Elders at the home served as mentors, sharing their lifetimes of gardening knowledge. Students were required to read Michael J. Caduto & Joseph Bruchac’s book, Native American Gardening, but the most important assignment was to complete an hour-long interview with an elder on the subject.

The college students were the elders’ knees, backs, muscle, and hands in the gardens. The elders had a long “wish list” of vegetables so the two garden plots required the assistance of several individuals and the county extension service, who donated time, seeds, and seedlings. A nursery owner out of Grand Forks donated 150 pounds of certified seed potatoes. Elder Anna Perronteau reminded students to plant flowers to attract the bees. Another elder, Rachel Parisien, promised to dance for the thunderbirds, and the rain fell in buckets that night.

“The project is an important link to our tribal history,” according to Leslie Peltier, one of the certified Master Gardeners. Gardens were once essential to survival. The goals of this project are: 1) to return to a more healthy diet, 2) to provide safe sources of food for our elders, and 3) physical activity for elders and students in the fresh air and sunshine. In the future, the participants hope to raise money to purchase a greenhouse and to offer additional college courses in food production and preservation. This is one of many agricultural classes being developed under the land grant program directed by Hamley. The instructor and facilitators believe that by preserving the knowledge of their people, they are rebuilding the foundation of Chippewa culture.

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