On August 18 during the Indigenous Studies Field Course (INST301) the students gathered to to harvest sweetgrass. As has been mentioned in other posts, the sweetgrass has grown really well in the garden here at St Mary’s University.
The principles of the Honourable Harvest were laid out for us in an excerpt of a recorded lecture by Robin Wall Kimmerer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDAPis_GA_s. They are simple, yet profound, and require the harvester to slow down, be in the world & be grateful:
Never take the first one
Listen for the answer
Take only what you need
Use everything that you take
Share what you have taken
Give a gift in reciprocity for what you have taken
Lakota/Dakota Elder, Evelyn Good Striker reminded the students of the protocol of reciprocity and tobacco was shared by the course instructor, Michelle Scott amongst the students, and offered to the sweetgrass by several participants. Based on the amount of sweetgrass in the garden, Evelyn suggested that 2 braids could be made from each patch and showed the students how to harvest, pulling the leaves from the bottom of the plant. Each braid was made from 21 leaves following the Mi’kmaw teaching Michelle was gifted from her home territory, that each strand should have 7 blades of grass to represent the 7 directions (East, West, South, North, Sky, Earth, Centre). There is a teaching in some Indigenous cultures that the 3 braids represent Mind/Body/Spirit.
The braids will be dried before being used for smudging, and a stems from a giant hyssop and bee balm were also harvested for making tea!