The Indigenous Community & Healing Garden at the Ajax Pickering Hospital is a designated healing space for hospital staff, patients, volunteers and the surrounding community.

As visitors make their way into the garden, both sides of the entryway are surrounded by planting beds featuring perennials and sacred medicines. To continue promoting peace, healing, stress relief and psychological comfort, benches are placed to either side to welcome visitors to sit, enjoy and observe the natural beauty of the space.

The center of the garden presents a large circle featuring seven demonstration beds. Seven raised planter boxes arch around the circle on a path, which leads you back to the center of the garden. This circular design honours the Indigenous teaching that everyone has a place in the community circle and their own unique contribution. The seven grandfather stones placed throughout the garden are a physical representation of the Grandfather Teachings, which serve as a code conduct to the Indigenous way of life.

Visitors can also discover various annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs that are planted alongside seasonal fruits and vegetables, which will support local food security. The Three Sisters, corn, beans and squash help teach us that each plant shares a specific gift that assists the others in their growth.

Explore this page to learn more about the story behind the garden.

National Day of Truth and Reconciliation Program - September 27, 6 p.m.

Join the Town of Ajax, Ajax Public Library and Ajax Pickering hospital for a special community program to recognize the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation 2023. The program will allow the community to visit the Indigenous Community and Healing Garden to learn more about the design and plants, participate in storytelling and crafts for youth and participate in a community healing circle led by Elder Kim Wheatley.

Date: September 27, 2023

Time: 6 to 7 p.m.

Location & parking:

Indigenous Community & Healing Garden (Ajax Pickering Hospital - 580 Harwood Avenue South, Kitney Drive entrance) *free parking available at Ajax Community Centre

Map of parking area for event in parking lot south of the Ajax Community Centre

Indigenous Performers
Anishinaabe Traditional Grandmother Kim Wheatley

Kim Wheatley

Traditional Anishinaabe Grandmother Kim Wheatley is Ojibway, Potawatomi and Caribbean in ancestry. She is a band member of Shawanaga First Nation located on the shores of Georgian Bay on Robinson Huron Treaty Territories and is Turtle Clan. She carries the Spirit name “Head or Leader of the Fireflower” and has worked for 3 decades with Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities across Canada. As a multi-award-winning speaker for over 3 decades, Kim has appeared locally, nationally and internationally in books, magazines, television, radio and numerous news articles. She is a published author, hand drummer, singer, water walker, artist, ceremonial practitioner and ancestral knowledge keeper. Kim is committed to forging good relationships based aligned with reconciliation that honour the past, connect the present and contribute to the future. 

Indigenous Traditional Fancy Shawl Dancers Je'niya & Cherish Kelly

Fancy Shawl Dancers Je'niya & Cherish Kelly

The "Kelly Sisters" are Ojibway and Jamaican in ancestry. They are known individually as Je'niya and Cherish who call their dance group Memengwaa’aI’Kwewag” which means Butterfly Women. They have been dancing for over 4 years and honour their bi-racial identity while challenging stereotyped perceptions of Indigenous people through the pow-wow style of dance called "Fancy Shawl". This style of dance honours creation utilizing intricate footwork that "dances up the medicine" from the Earth while mimicking the light movements of a butterfly. They have appeared in numerous events but most notably on the main stage of Celebration Square in Mississauga for National Indigenous People's Day on June 21, 2022. It is their sincere hope to encourage and mentor other Black and Indigenous youth to find their place of belonging through traditional dance.

Indigenous Spoken Word Poet and Artist, Sarah Lewis

Sarah Lewis spoken word

Sarah Lewis is an Anishinaabe (Ojibwe/Cree) spoken word artist, activist, community organizer and mother. She was Peterborough’s Inaugural Poet from 2021-2022 and was a semi-finalist at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in 2019. Sarah has been featured on many platforms, including Global News, CBC Radio, Trent University Alumni magazine, KawarthaNow and many more. Sarah’s poetry envisions a decolonial society. Her poetry reminds us to rest, to resist, to question, to choose nature and love. Her poetry also highlights the resurgence of Indigenous communities and how Indigenous people are reclaiming their identities, culture, strength and sovereignty.


Land Acknowledgement

Mississauga of Scugog

We acknowledge that the land on which the garden in located is situated within the traditional and treaty territory of the Mississauga. More specifically, the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation signatories of the Gunshot Treaty of 1788 and the Williams Treaty of 1923. This land is and will continue to be home to the Indigenous peoples. Let us acknowledge the mistakes and traumas of the past through authenticity and support truth and reconciliation. Let us engage and celebrate Indigenous communities by being leaders of action and acknowledging the United Nations' declaration of rights of Indigenous peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions' recommendations towards truth and reconciliation. Let us keep these principles close as we continue towards truth and reconciliation and as we move forward with kindness and respect as a community.

The Circle

the circle 

The garden emphasizes the circle as its central design element, inspired by Indigenous teachings. Visitors immediately encounter a large circular area dedicated to demonstrating Indigenous Agroecology through companion planting and wherever you are in the garden, you are led back into the centre of the circle.

These teachings illuminate that everybody has a place in the community circle and something to contribute. It is our responsibility to find out what our gifts are so that we can nurture them and share them with our family, loved ones and community. As the Indigenous people got older they became more valuable, because they had more significant life experience to teach their community and bring into the circle.

The seasons, the elements, the learning process, the growth cycles of plants, the directions on the Medicine Wheel, the stages of our lives; all of these are circular and cyclical.

Click here to see the original garden site plan.

3 Sisters

3 sisters

Photo courtesy of Miinikaan Innovation and Design


The Three Sisters, Corn, Beans and Squash, are healthier and produce more food when they’re grown together. Each Sister provides a gift to the other Sisters to help her grow to her full potential. When grown together the Three Sisters actually revitalize the soil.

Historically, the Three Sisters fed thousands of people in different communities in this region of Ontario and what is now Quebec. Many of the Longhouse (Haudenosaunee) people practiced this type of farming.

7 Sisters; 7 Directions; 7 Clans; 7 Grandfather Teachings

Indigenous garden 7 sisters

Photo courtesy of Miinikaan Innovation and Design


Visitors to the garden will find seven mounds in the demonstration garden circle, seven raised bed planters, and seven grandfather stones placed throughout. This design reflects on the significance of ‘seven’ within Indigenous teachings.

  • 7 Sisters - There are four other Indigenous crops that, when planted among the Three Sisters, complement and enhance their reciprocity. The Seven Sisters are corn, beans, squash, strawberries, sunchokes, sunflowers, and ground cherries.
  • 7 Directions - There are Seven Sacred Directions within the circular Ojibwe Medicine Wheel: North, South, East, West, Above, Centre, and Below. The medicine wheel reminds us of many things including the need for balance in the world and within ourselves. Elder Lillian Pitawanakwat teaches us that when we honour this knowledge, we honour our ancestors.
  • 7 Clans – Originally, there were seven Anishinaabe clans; Marten, Deer, Fish, Bear, Crane, Loon, and Thunderbird. Anishinaabe knowledge keeper Jim Dumont educates about how the Clan System is spiritually important, it created a social structure, and served as a Great Law, and a structure of governance.
  • 7 Grandfather Teachings - The Seven Grandfathers are Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility, and Truth, though there are many variations in different cultures and traditions. The Grandfather Teachings are like a code of conduct and make the foundation for an Indigenous way of life.

The return and relearning of traditional teachings is a step towards healing our relationship to the land and beginning to heal Indigenous communities.

Indigenous Agroecology & Plant List


Photo courtesy of Miinikaan Innovation and Design


The garden is home to a variety of plant-life, purposefully selected to reflect Indigenous Agroecology practices.

Most people aren’t aware of what Indigenous food systems are because colonization wiped out that knowledge. The bounty of foods cultivated by First Nations across Turtle Island (North America) was mistakenly and ignorantly perceived by settlers as a gift of untouched nature, erasing the significance of Indigenous Agroecology.

The abundance of forest foods and medicines and the health of the forest ecosystems are a result of long-standing and sophisticated Indigenous Agroecology practices. These practices revitalize the soil and honour the reciprocal relationship with the land.

Below are lists of the plants that can be found in the garden.


Perennial Plants, Shrubs and Trees

Prairie Smoke

Geum triflorum


Calendula officinalis

Purple coneflower

Echinacea purpurea, angustifolia

Blue vervain

Verbena hastata


Valeriana officinalis

Indian grass

Sorghastrum nutans


Eupatorium perfoliatum

White Prarie Sage

Artemisia Ludoviciana


Hierocholoe odorata

Wild savory

Calamintha Arkansana

Lemon balm

Melissa officinails

Virginia mountain mint

Pycnanthemum virginianum

Wild lupine

Lupines perennis

Pearly everlasting

Anaphalis margaritacea

Obedient plant

Physostegia virginiana           

American chestnut

Castanea dentada

White cedar

Thuja occidentalis

American Hazelnut

Corylus Americana


Sambucus canadensis

American Pum

Prunus Americana

Saskatoon Berry

Amelanchier alnifolia

Common Juniper

Juniperus communis

Wild Black Currant

Ribes americanum


Vitis sp, Vitis riparia

Plants for Indigenous Agroecology Demonstration Mounds

Wild Strawberry

Fragaria vesca


Helianthum tuberosa


Zea mays


Curcubitae spp


Phaseoluls vulgaris

Tobacco (ceremonial)

Nicotiana rustica

Ground cherries

Physails pruinosa



The Meadow

The Meadow

Photo courtesy of Miinikaan Innovation and Design


The Meadow is a separate complimentary project located to the south of the Indigenous Community & Healing Garden. Sponsored by OPG, the meadow is an ecosystem in transition and home to a wide variety of predominantly native species, including some with medicinal values. It is designed to bloom throughout the season for pollinators.

The meadow was born of the Ajax Pickering Hospital’s helipad update, which required a small woodlot to be cut down. So as not to lose this beautiful naturally formed space, it has been reimagined as a naturalized meadow and transformed into an environment more indicative of the naturally occurring landscape of the region. 

Seeds from the site will be collected and shared with others throughout Ontario who are wishing to create or expand their own Indigenous landscapes. To learn more visit

About the Partners

The Indigenous Community & Healing Garden would not be possible without its many partners and friends.

The Town of Ajax and Ajax Pickering Hospital worked to bring this project to life with generous funds provided by the Ajax Mayor’s Gala.

Miinikaan Innovation and Design was engaged because of their expertise in Indigenous landscape and design. They were given full creative license to inspire and capture the hearts of patients, staff and the community with their garden design.

Elder Kim Wheatley has guided the Indigenous ceremonial plan for the Indigenous Garden while providing her wisdom and knowledge.

We Grow Food, a grassroots organization that promotes the importance of growing our own food, gave input during the design stage and helped with the planting.

The HMS Ajax and River Plate Veteran’s Association have contributed a tree to provide shade for the garden. This will be planted during the associations visit to Ajax.

Going forward, community volunteers will be needed to help continue the cultivation and maintenance of the garden. 

Indigenous Design and Representation

Indigenous Landscape

Photo courtesy of Miinikaan Innovation and Design


Indigenous representation has been an important component of the planning and building of the Indigenous Community & Healing Garden.

Miinikaan Innovation and Design used elements of Indigenous history and storytelling to inform the design and building of the garden. Miinikaan’s team of professional gardeners, project managers, and Indigenous consultants have vast experience encompassing rooftop and container gardens, on-the-ground gardens, pollinator and rain gardens, organic food cultivation, traditional teachings about Indigenous plants, and Indigenous Food Sovereignty.

Chef Johl Whiteduck, co-founder of Miinikaan, is Anishnawbe and Algonquin. He is also the owner of NishDish Marketeria & Catering, specializing in Anishnawbe cuisine, a public speaker on topics related to food sovereignty and social entrepreneurship, and has taught countless food demos and traditional food skills workshops.

Co-founder Lara Mrosovsky is a professional gardener, artist and author, specializing in rooftop gardens that produce food. Gardening has always been part of her family, from her parents to her Danish, British, Russian and Italian ancestors.

Meanwhile, Elder Kim Wheatley (Ojibwe Anishinaabe Grandmother from Shawanaga First Nation Reserve who carries the spirit name Head or Leader of the Fireflower) was first engaged in the Indigenous Community & Healing Garden in 2020 to present on the importance and significance of Indigenous gardens, the traditions, history and ceremonies. 

Since, she has been leading and guiding the Indigenous ceremonial plan for the Indigenous Garden while providing her wisdom and knowledge as we continue to develop the garden.

Food Security

We Grow Food

Photo Courtesy of We Grow Food


Community gardens are one way to support food security and provide access to local food. The Indigenous Community & Healing Garden will support the growing of herbs, fruits and vegetables which will be accessible for free to individuals and families.

We Grow Food, a grassroots organization, will support garden planting as well as training the volunteers on everything they need to know to have a successful garden.

We Grow Food promotes the importance of growing our own food and connecting community members to each other through sharing natural, fresh produce in an urban setting. Established in 2013, fresh produce from food gardens installed by We Grow Food impact almost 500 people a week.

They believe that everyone has a right to access fresh produce and that everyone’s voice, skill, ability or talent is important in full circle giving where everyone can give and receive with dignity.  

A National Healing Forest

National Healing Forest logo

The National Healing Forests Initiative is a network of forests and green spaces across Canada where Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples can come together in the spirit of reconciliation to heal, reflect, meditate, talk, share, and build respect and understanding as a result of the Residential School legacy and the findings of the National Truth and Reconciliation report.

On June 20, 2022, Ajax Council passed a motion directing staff to work with the Ajax Pickering Hospital to pursue a Healing Garden designation for the Indigenous Community & Healing Garden.

In addition to receiving the designation, the garden was also the recipient of a small grant offered through a partnership between the David Suzuki Foundation and the National Healing Forests Initiative.

To learn more about the National Healing Forests Initiative visit

If you wish to volunteer in the garden contact Teresa at 905-683-2320 ext. 11501, or