Recovering a memorial garden to honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) Volunteering with Cottonwood Garden, we learned that there is more to gardening than placing seeds in the soil. While caring for one of the plots, we were surprised to learn that an adjacent plot had once been a memorial garden to honour MMIWG.
We learned that with time, it became more and more challenging for elderly mothers of the victims to consistently take care of this public space; visitors to the garden did not realize that this plot was not a dump site, and we immediately felt in a sorority with the lived experiences of mothers who continuously search for their loved ones, and accepted the task of continuing to care for the space. Holding onto the importance of following protocols, we began to connect with family members of the missing and advocates who, in the past, had taken care of the memorial garden as a way to recover the stories behind the space. At the same time, with support from a group of strong volunteers, we proceeded to remove garbage and mismatched items from the plot. We found a couple of flower beds that had been used during the vigils outside of one of the perpetrator’s farm many years ago; these were still filled with roses and
ferns. The families related how the rose garden had served as medicine to strengthen communities while the forensic teams carried out their detailed work to uncover the remains of victims. And slowly, the names and stories of missing women began to be heard on the bench
under the sun once again.
Currently, there is still a layer of rocks, bicycle parts and broken tiles that will need to be removed in the upcoming spring. A new sign has been placed to identify the space and its purpose, the wooden bench was sealed against the rainy weather and lifted higher, as well as back support was introduced to ensure seniors are comfortable during their time at the memorial garden. On November 1st, 2022, day in which Latin-American diaspora commemorates those who have passed away, we had the opportunity to hold a safe space to raise public awareness around colonial violence affecting indigenous women and girls in the Downtown Eastside (DTES). Flowers, candles and butterflies with the names of the missing were placed in the memorial garden, followed by a warm gathering of allies interested in learning more.
In the coming months, we will continue to consult with families and advocates to introduce media resources to educate for the prevention of violence against women; we will continue to clean the space and introduce more flower beds, plant different types of roses, place a bulletin board dedicated to sending loving messages to the missing and provide key information. An important action towards reconciliation is to honour the truth through public education and awareness, the recovery of the public garden to honour MMIWG is one way to stand together.