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College greenhouses grow connections to land, reconciliation

'We want to plants seeds of hope and inspiration for all learners'
Northern Lights College held a tobacco harvesting ceremony at its student greenhouse at the Dawson Creek campus on Oct 8, 2021. (Northern Lights College)

Two new greenhouses have gone up at Northern Lights College campuses in Fort St John and Dawson Creek, part of effort to grow student connections to reconciliation and food sustainability.

The greenhouses will house four sacred plants — sage, sweet grass, tobacco, and cedar — all to be used in future Indigenous ceremonies. Bruce Mackay, the college's co-ordinator of Indigenous relations and services, says the legacy structures are vital for spiritually connecting students and staff to the land.

“Through the act of planting a seed, watering it, caring, honouring and harvesting a medicinal plant, or any food we grow, we will be enacting parts of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action that will allow us to co-create with communities (indigenous and non-indigenous) collaborative pathways to greater understanding and learning using Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing,” Mackay explained in an email.

Northern Lights College has added greenhouses to their campuses in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek. (Northern Lights College)

The greenhouses were built by trade students in the college’s carpentry program and placed on site at each campus. A tobacco harvesting ceremony was held last week in Dawson Creek, with the sacred plants now drying in the school's indigenous gathering space.

Mackay says tobacco honours the gift of life and is used by elders to cleanse the spirit, heal, and connect with others.

“As in the garden, we want to plants seeds of hope and inspiration for all learners,” he said.

While the greenhouses are primarily rooted in First Nations culture and the sacred Medicine Wheel, they will also be used to grow herbs and vegetables.

Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative. Email Tom at