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GREEN LIVING: Earth Day: How to have a caring relationship with the earth

Get inspired at Manidoo Bineshii Dreams
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“We cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know, and we cannot know what we do not see. Or hear. Or sense.” – Richard Louv

We could all benefit from a stronger connection to nature. For those looking to deepen this connection, one local artist is leading the way.

Lately people have been talking about Manidoo Bineshii Dreams (MBD), an off-grid, outdoor, collective arts and food sovereignty space based in Atikameksheng Anishnawbek in Northern Ontario.

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At MBD, you can take a variety of eco-friendly and sustainable living workshops, learning about:

  • medicines and herbalism, with medicine walks and plant identification,
  • gardening: planting, harvesting and seed-saving,
  • how to make a fire in any weather, including cooking sessions and making fresh teas over the fire, and
  • eco-printing, a technique that transfers plant colour and shape onto cloth.

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Artist Manidoo Bineshiinh

Manidoo Bineshiinh, the creator of this Indigenous-led and owned space, is excited to share it with local communities. She especially hopes youth and elders will come share their stories and find their passions.

It represents a world of possibility, where everyone is encouraged to discover and follow their dreams. “You can find nature again and see the beauty in the things we sometimes take for granted,” she says.

The artist is from Traditional Territory Robinson Huron (1850) Treaty 6 Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, Loon Clan. She is a descendant of the three fires confederacy, born into a family history of farming, land-based living and crafting. She is a visionary artist specializing in custom artworks like jewelry, beadwork and leatherwork.

A natural storyteller, Bineshiinh is comfortable using different mediums. She is proud to share the teachings of history to reclaim identity and revive a once forbidden culture and language.

Manidoo Bineshii Dreams

Back in 2006, Bineshiinh and her father started a business together. He wanted to open a variety store. She was in college, studying photography and media, working towards becoming a professional artist and doing arts and crafts on the side.

He had always taught her about survival and how to create a healthy, reciprocal relationship with the land—not just taking from it, but giving back and restoring it. Sadly, he passed away in 2018 from cancer, at just 57 years old. It was a huge loss to the family; he had been Bineshiinh’s best friend and one of her biggest motivators.

The land that Manidoo Bineshii Dreams now occupies was established back in 2006 with her father. She started the space in March 2020, after her work in the film industry ended. Becoming a farmer helped her get active again and allowed her to focus on her passions.

The artist has always been concerned about food security, so she started her own community garden. Taking inspiration from her father, she decided to carry on his legacy and reclaim the land they had started together.

Tackling health risks

“To create a sustainable life for the land and for our people is necessary. I’m seeing my community suffering and dying at very young ages,” she says.

A close friend, who was just 30, died of stomach cancer. Many she knows are not reaching their 70s or 80s. “To me, that is a red flag,” she says. “We need to start taking care of our bodies and our health, and gardening is a way for us to do that.”

To combat the environmental destruction all around her, she wants to advocate for those who can’t and share this knowledge with the youth. Because living off the land is key to her community’s survival—members hunt, fish, and gather medicines and berries—that land needs to be protected and able to thrive.

“I like to teach in my space how to heal ourselves by using food as medicine. Also, how do we give back to the land so that it can heal itself and provide clean water?” she says.

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Building a brighter future

She is driven by the thought of her nieces and nephew, and what kind of a future they will have. “They need to know what they’re up against, what to advocate for and how to do that,” she says.

Bineshiinh’s vision is for everyone to feel comfortable at Manidoo Bineshii Dreams, to be able to express themselves freely and share their culture, traditions and language.

The safe space she has created is a place to garden, engage in the arts, and concentrate on self-care, physical and mental healing. Built for cross-cultural learning, all ages are welcome. “The work I do is for all humans, not just our communities. It helps integrate communities for better living and healthy habits, which create a decolonized relationship in all forms: mind, body and soul,” she says.

In the winter, you can track animal prints, participate in fire cookouts, listen to the birds and snowshoe around the garden. Bineshiinh plans to grow lots of organic food, including celery, cucumbers, broccoli, asparagus and artichoke. This spring she’ll offer workshops in writing visualization, a garden tour in herbalism, natural dye making, earth oven, cobb building, seeding and a virtual tour of the garden, showcasing the edible forest.

Says the artist, “We make our dreams, we make these things happen for ourselves and that’s what I want the people in my community to know. We can do what we put our minds to.”

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April is Earth Month

April is the perfect time to get out on the trails and reconnect with nature. Try the Rainbow Routes Association and the Lake Laurentian Conservation Area.  It’s also a great time to try some "forest bathing".

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April is a great month to start reporting on the animals and plants you see in our community. You can report sightings on iNaturalist; it is an opportunity for residents to enjoy nature while making important observations that are used in hundreds of scientific publications. It creates community awareness of local biodiversity and promotes further exploration of local environments. Look for the Sudbury Biodiversity Project on the iNaturalist site.

Here are other opportunities in Greater Sudbury (check the City’s Environmental Events Calendar for more):

Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury activities:

  • Make a Nature Mandala to celebrate Earth month. Create a mandala with a few found and fallen natural materials like leaves, pinecones and twigs. Post a picture and tag @liveablesud anytime in April. Let’s celebrate mother earth and the return of spring together!
  • Join an Earth Month walk and community conversation, Sunday, April 24 at 2 pm. Join us on a walk for some reflection, simple activities and conversation as we envision a community that cares better for the earth and each other. Register at liveablesudbury.org.
  • Discuss Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer at our Climate Justice Book Club, Thursday, April 28 at 6:30 pm. Register at www.liveablesudbury.org or at sudburylibraries.ca.
  • reThink Green’s Annual Sustainability Awards take place on April 21, 2022.

Reconnecting with nature, learning from it and protecting it will go a long way towards helping the community achieve its net-zero goal by 2020.

If you have a project you’d like the City to highlight, contact Jennifer Babin-Fenske at earthcare@greatersudbury.ca.