By Francis Ferland | CBC News
Mikinàk Lodge recently opened on Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa
On the grounds of Ottawa’s Central Experimental Farm stands a modest one-storey building, surrounded by a medicinal garden of lavender and sage.
It’s home to the recently opened Mikinàk Lodge, a retreat where Indigenous employees of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada can meet to pray, hold ceremonies and share their culture.
“It really was the culmination of the Indigenous employees and our efforts over the last half a decade or so,” said Orlando Blacksmith, an Indigenous student advisor with the department and co-chair of the Indigenous Network Circle.
The word Mikinàk means “truth” in Algonquin, Blacksmith told CBC Radio’s All In A Day last week. It’s a nod to the fact the lodge — and for that matter, the wider city of Ottawa — exists on unceded Algonquin territory.
The lodge’s circular ceremonial room contains openings to the outdoors, allowing for smudging and the use of the Qulliq, the traditional Inuit oil lamp, said Blacksmith.
It also has a “medicinal wall” featuring traditional Algonquin medicinal plants, said Blacksmith, who is Cree from the James Bay region of Quebec.
“People can come here and they can literally take medicines off the wall. They can bring them home. In the future we’re going to have teas and stuff available that people can just take and use,” he said.
“We’re probably going to grow some sage … I love sitting in this little area here. It smells great.”
The brainchild of two Indigenous employees with the department, the lodge cost $2 million to build and was years in the making.
Blacksmith said its completion — and the fact his group was able to convince the federal government to fund it — left him “in shock.”
“It’s also not just a single blip. It’s not just one single thing,” he said. “I think it will really open doors for our Indigenous employees. It’s like a beginning point for something greater.”
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