Asemaa gitigaanan: Indigenous knowledge and sacred medicines in Toronto

Asemaa gitigaanan centers the importance of urban Indigenous knowledge and sacred medicines in Toronto. Innovation, in the context of this project, means learning deeply about what it means that this city is Indigenous land, full of Indigenous life; this city is full of medicine(s). Supporting and nurturing Indigenous life in this city must prioritize Indigenous peoples’ self-determination and access in relationship to our medicines. 

Asemaa gitigaanan is engaging an intergenerational group of Indigenous people and our relatives in a series of workshops to learn about growing asemaa (ceremonial tobacco). The project began with planting workshops, held in and as ceremony, as well as a series of conversations about our personal and collective relationships to these medicines. The asemaa seedlings are being cared for throughout the city. They will be grown in yards and on balconies of diverse community members who are committed to learning together about asemaa. The medicines will be harvested, gathered, and used by community members in ceremony and made available to the wider community as an offering.

The project is intended to honour asemaa as a vital medicine for the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, and Wyandot nations/confederacies who have cared for this place (currently called Toronto) for millennia, ensuring life for all who presently find a home here. Niigaanii asemaa – tobacco comes first, tobacco leads; this project learns from the leadership of plant medicines as teachers, as those who we should be looking to first for whatever it is we are seeking.

Project lead: Rebecca Beaulne-Stuebing, School of Cities Fellow and PhD student, Social Justice Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE); collaborative program in Indigenous Health