Sage harvested at Manitoba Hydro head office replenishes supply at local community organizations

The West Central Women’s Resource Centre and the North Point Douglas Women’s Resource Centre are two Manitoba organizations that have been provided with sage grown at Manitoba Hydro in response to a shortage of traditional plants. (See Manitoba drought leaves women’s centres short on sage for smudging, medicinal uses.)

“To know where this came from – it gives me hope,” said Jolene Wilson, West Central Women’s Resource Centre. “This is medicine for our community, and this sage is beautiful – you can see it has caretakers at Manitoba Hydro.”

The donated sage comes from the traditional Indigenous medicinal garden, Kihtihga-nahn, tended by members of Manitoba Hydro’s Indigenous Sharing Circle since it was first planted in 2018. The garden sits atop the third floor “green roof” of the corporation’s Winnipeg headquarters.

“There is a need in the community,” said Julie DesLauriers, a recruitment and diversity specialist who participates in Manitoba Hydro’s Indigenous Sharing Circle. “When we read the CBC story, our sharing circle group immediately thought: how can we let people know we have this to share?”

The year’s bumper crop shows the plant is spreading naturally after it was planted three years ago.

“Left to its elements, I am amazed at how much sage and also sweetgrass is out here,” said Rose Monkman, an employee in distribution engineering and one of the garden’s caretakers. “We have a beautiful crop… in 2019, we couldn’t find much sweetgrass, but it has now filled in one whole side.”

Kevin Monkman, who works in Manitoba Hydro’s Indigenous & Community Relations group, says the goal was outreach, even beyond the women’s centres listed in the news story.

“We also want to spread the word we have locally grown sage available and we can help provide what they may need,” said Kevin. Jolene was the one who talked to Kevin about the donation.

“Kevin explained where it came from, and the urban garden on the building – and I saw the photos, it looks like this beautiful field… I thought, ‘isn’t that wonderful?’ We’ve received lots of donations from rural communities – this was our first from an urban centre.

So, I accepted this donation with honesty – that our lands need to be protected, but this gives me hope. We all need to be caretakers in our future. It’s that circle of life. Seeing [Manitoba Hydro’s] field of sweetgrass and sage, it’s a start. It’s beautiful and it has caretakers.”

Rose and Julie offered tobacco.
Before picking began, Rose and Julie offered tobacco and gave thanks to Creator for this year’s crop.
Karen picks sage amidst the sweetgrass.
After giving her offering, Karen picks sage amidst the sweetgrass.
Rose holds a stem of sweetgrass.
In this photo, Rose holds a stem of sweetgrass – one of the traditional medicines planted in the garden.
Sage bundles are hung to dry.
Once the sage has been picked, bundles are hung for drying in a room on the 14th floor of Manitoba Hydro’s main offices at 360 Portage Ave. in Winnipeg.