Last January, RRC Indigenous Wellness Advisor Donna Glover had
an idea. She saw that the College had a traditional medicine garden,
but they were not growing tobacco. Glover took it upon herself to
Tobacco is one of the four sacred medicines in Indigenous culture
and Glover felt that it was important for the College to create
a relationship with the medicine themselves. "Anyone can go to the
gas station and buy tobacco, but we wanted a special connection,"
As a Wellness Advisor, Glover works with students as a mentor of
Indigenous cultures and spirituality. She teaches skills such as
teepee setup, beadwork, drum making, medicine picking and preparing,
and uses land-based learning to teach. She supports the College's
Elders-in-Residence with teachings and ceremonies like sweat lodge
and pipe ceremonies. She also provides extra circular activities
and wellness opportunities for students like Indigenous horticultural
club, mindful meditation, floor hockey, and more. In an Indigenous
worldview, the mind, body, spirit and heart work together, and Glover
hopes that these experiences provided at College will contribute
to a sense of wholeness to complement students' academic journey.
RRC is dedicated to embedding these Indigenous ways of learning
and being to advance Indigenous achievement. When it comes to spiritual
and cultural practices, they make sure that necessary elements (such
as tobacco) are provided for students.
Glover says that she wanted a way for the college to be self-sufficient
when it comes to tobacco. She knew that the College is committed
to sustainability and thought that this project could help with
"When you have to take care of and respect the tobacco, you gain
a new relationship [with it]," says Glover.
In April, Glover took over a small plot of land on Red River College's
Notre Dame Campus. She worked with RRC's green space management
instructors to plant tobacco seeds, and soon tobacco plants began
to spring up. Over the summer, the Indigenous Support staff helped
water and care for the plants. Glover says that she used no pesticides
or fertilizer, only water and sunlight.
There were so many tobacco plants that they gave many away at the
Summer Solstice to staff, students, and community members, to encourage
others create that spiritual relationship and to think of tobacco
in a more natural and obtainable way. They used the Solstice event
as an opportunity to bless the plants and set an intention.
She feels that growing tobacco has helped students to reconnect
with the spiritual meaning of tobacco, rather than thinking of it
just a product one can buy. "We as Indigenous [peoples] have our
own reconciliation to do, why not start with tobacco," she says.
It was a very special moment for Glover, who had spent almost a
year on this initiative, when she was able to honour pipe carriers
at the Winter Solstice Pipe Ceremony and Feast with homegrown tobacco
for the first time.