The St Mary’s University medicine garden, named Itsemseemo, a Blackfoot word meaning “Where we plant” by Elder Casey Eagle Speaker in fall 2021, was built by a group of former Biology students as their senior project. The idea was to grow native prairie & woodland plants from southern Alberta, particularly those which have a history of use by local Indigenous people. This grew out of a desire to reconnect with our native land & its original peoples. Colonization by European settlers had significant effects not only on the Indigenous peoples but on the land.
The intentional and inadvertent introduction of exotic plants by settlers has changed the landscape profoundly. For example, what was a sand grass prairie on the west side of campus, is now mostly lawn grasses. Although superficially similar, native prairie species need far less water to flourish than lawn grasses and prairies are far more biodiverse than lawns. Prairies include a variety of grasses and flowering species and provide food and homes for many pollinators & small animals.
Although planting a garden is not a traditional Blackfoot activity gathering native plants in a garden gives people a chance to familiarize themselves with them. Knowing what a plant looks like will allow people to recognize them in a prairie & develop an appreciation for the local biodiversity.]