Indigenous Gathering Circle expected to open in spring

Aboyne gathering circle first proposed as an Indigenous medicine garden in 2021

ABOYNE – Nearly 400 trees, plants and traditional Indigenous medicines are on the way from Centre-Wellington’s Whiffletree Farm and Nursery for the county’s Indigenous Gathering Circle project.

Located behind the Wellington County Museum and Archives on the Wellington Place Campus, the two-acre gathering circle is intended to serve as an area for Indigenous persons to grow medicines, share teachings and participate in ceremonies, and for the community at large to come together as a part of its reconciliation journey.

“We envision trails among orchards and pollinator spaces, an accessible public space with fruit trees — including varieties of apple, plum, pear, [and] mulberry — to flowering shrubs and berry plants,” Wellington Place administrator Jana Burns stated in an email to the Advertiser.

There will also be elm, maple and cedars sourced from the county’s Green Legacy program, and elderberry, raspberry, juniper and linden trees among other trees and plants native to the area.

Plants and sacred medicines — tobacco, cedar, sage, and sweetgrass — will be planted this spring, some of which will end up in 18 raised planter boxes being constructed from white cedar by Centre Wellington District High School students.

High school students, from left, from Geoff Patterson’s construction class: Ethan Whitelaw, Nicholas Matson, Elijah Brubacher, and Matthew Downs. Submitted photo


The sacred medicines will also be planted within the gathering circle itself.

The site is currently under construction with bases poured for hydro and water tap posts, and for space around granite stones, Burns wrote.

“Armour stone” will be placed next week, followed by pathways and topsoil grading.

Seeding will occur in the springtime Burns stated in her email.

Site plan rendering of the Indigenous Gathering Circle by VG Architects. (Jan. 11 Information, Heritage and Seniors Committee agenda image)


The county’s Indigenous Advisory Committee (IAC) — formed during conversations about land acknowledgements and which helps guide the county’s work relating to Indigenous matters — is interested in hearing from community members and volunteers who want to assist in the spring planting.

A dedicated webpage will eventually be published on the county’s website where people interested in participating can express interest.

“It is the goal of the IAC that this space is inclusive of anyone wanting to participate in some capacity,” Burns stated.

In that vein, the committee and Burns met with Wellington Terrace Long-Term Care Home administration on Nov. 30 to provide an update on the project and to get an understanding of their interest in getting involved during and after planting.

Terrace administration expressed interest in using the space for end-of-life reflection, memorial services (which could incorporate Indigenous traditions), and participating in intergenerational programming, according to a report from Burns to the county’s Information, Heritage and Seniors Committee.

The Indigenous Gathering Circle is expected to be ready for use this spring, and will continue to grow and evolve.

“It goes without saying how much we are anticipating this beautiful space to offer supports and land-based connection to the local Indigenous community and supporting agencies,” IAC chair Colleen Brunelle stated in an email.

“These are very exciting times as we plan for great potential in this space.”

A 3,150 square-foot pavilion that will complete the area is also included in a “mini masterplan” for Wellington Place.

3D rendering by VG Architects of a pavilion area to be located near an Indigenous Gathering Circle. Information, Heritage and Seniors Committee agenda image


“The pavilion serves as another welcoming and inclusive public space at Wellington Place, aesthetically appropriate to its surroundings and providing space to nurture the people who gather in it,” states Burns’ report to the committee.

The wooden pavilion with a water feature will serve as a “dedicated space for Indigenous makers” as well as an area for events, festivals and education.

A timeline for when the pavilion would be added was not given, but it is proposed in the county’s 2023 capital budget.