Over the last five years, TD Tree Days has been honoured to be able to work with over 10 different Indigenous groups at more than 20 planting events across Canada. During this time, more than 3,500 trees and shrubs were added to various locales, enriching Indigenous communities with greener, more fruitful landscapes.
One of our first Indigenous tree planting events took place in Kelowna with Westbank First Nation. Every year since then, they've welcomed us back to plant in the community. This fall we'll be returning again to plant 450 diverse species of native trees and shrubs at Sneena Road, where trees were previously stripped to build a highway. The new trees will help create a natural habitat for wildlife and a safe, shady place for community members to come together. The year's tree planting event with Westbank First Nation will open with traditional drumming and singing, and is expected to be one of our biggest Indigenous events yet.
Last year, for the first time, we did a planting with Ermineskin Cree Nation in Maskwacis, Alberta. Over 30 volunteers participated, resulting in 150 new trees planted at the Pow-Wow grounds—an area that lacked trees and shading—which is shared by three other bands. Members of Samson Cree Nation, along with the Louis Bull Tribe, Montana First Nation, and Ermineskin Cree Nation came together with TD employees and community volunteers to participate in the event. It began with a Blessing Ceremony (as pictured above) where Elders held a prayer and planted a large willow tree. "For the members that attended, this was the first time they saw a ceremony for planting, and a prayer said for future generations," said Brian Lee, an Elder in the community. "Planting the trees was a positive thing for the community and brought them closer together."
This fall, TD Tree Days will be hosting another planting in the Ermineskin Cree Nation community with the support of Tree Canada at the Ermineskin Elders Centre. The event will begin with a Blessing Ceremony and a prayer led by one of the Lady Elders, followed by the planting of an elderberry as the ceremonial tree. It is their belief that women carry the gift of life (Fruit of Life) and the trees that will be planted will carry the fruit that will bring together their youth and elders, reviving the connection and transfer of knowledge that's passed on through generations. Once planted, the trees will be taken care of by the Elders and youth attending high schools close by, further strengthening their relationship.
It's been a privilege to be part of these Indigenous events over the years and look forward to the new plantings this fall. We welcome you to join us at one of our TD Tree Days events with Indigenous communities to help green more spaces and learn about their vibrant communities, traditions and culture.