An outdoor garden at the Campbell River campus of the North Island Hospital has been filled with plants traditionally used for food and medicines by the local Laichwiltach peoples, completing an important milestone for the hospital project.
A wide range of community partners, including members of the North Island Hospital Project’s Indigenous Working Group, Sasamans Society, Laichwiltach Family Life Society, First Nations Health Authority, Elders and youth from the local First Nations came together at the hospital on July 5 to fill the garden with plants like Oregon grape, Labrador tea, red elderberry, licorice fern, thimbleberry, salmon berries, salal and pacific silverweed.
The garden is located in the space where the former Campbell River and District General Hospital building once stood. Although the new hospital opened late in 2017, planting was delayed until demolition of the former hospital building was complete. The Comox Valley campus also features a traditional plant garden, which was established in 2017. Both North Island Hospital campuses include other elements that reflect the traditions and culture of local Indigenous peoples.
The garden project at both campuses was guided by local Elders who advised the North Island Hospital project as part of a working group focused on traditional plants and medicines. K’omoks Elder Barb Whyte, who has been involved with the project since the beginning, shared her knowledge and experience with Laichwiltach Elders June Johnson and Danielle Assu as they created the plan for the local garden.
“I’m just in awe, because it’s always been a dream of mine to have a healing garden, and what better place to have it than at the hospital?” said Johnson at the planting. “It’s for everyone in the community to enjoy. It’s really important for our people and it’s really important for our community to learn who we are and learn about our traditional medicines.”
The gardens are designed to integrate local cultural knowledge into a modern hospital setting, creating a healing and relaxing environment for patients, visitors and staff, while also offering an opportunity to educate the community about traditional plants and herbs.
“This garden is a wonderful reflection of the rich traditional knowledge of local Indigenous people and we are so grateful to be able to bring that to the North Island Hospital in Campbell River,” said Island Health Board Chair Leah Hollins. “We are truly thankful to the Elders and partners who have generously shared their time and expertise and worked with Island Health to see this garden come to life.”
Photos: See photos of the garden