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American Society of Landscape Architects


December 2004 Issue

Unobtrusive Measures
Can the vast and rugged landscapes once inhabited by Québec's indigenous peoples be successfully represented in an urban garden setting?

By Peter Jacobs

Unobtrusice Measures
WAA--Peter Roper

Québec has waited a long time for a garden devoted to its indigenous peoples' use of native plants. When Marie-Victorin, a Christian Brother, founded the Montréal Botanical Garden in 1936, no such garden existed. Marie-Victorin, an accomplished botanist who wrote the Flore Laurentien (still the standard reference for the forest ecosystems of the Laurentian Shield, a large geographic area of exposed rock in eastern and central Canada), was well aware of the need for understanding traditional plants and their medicinal uses. Henry Teuscher, a horticulturalist and landscape architect who developed the first plans for the Montréal Botanical Garden, was also a strong advocate of a garden of traditional plants. But an expression of the ethnobotany of the First Nations (Canada's indigenous peoples) would have to wait for almost 60 years before the convergence of opportunity and politics gave rise to the Garden of the First Nations. For many years, one of the only reminders of the First Nations' plant knowledge was a decorative panel—depicting the traditional practice of planting corn—on the facade of the main administrative building at the entry to the Montréal Botanical Garden.

In 2001, the 300th anniversary of the Great Peace Treaty of 1701 between the French colonial government and the 39 First Nations of Canada provided the impetus for the Botanical Garden to create the Garden of the First Nations. The millions of people who visit the Botanical Garden annually can now learn about the plant knowledge of Québec's indigenous peoples.

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