Silvera employees learn more about Indigenous culture through sage harvest experience

4 October 2023

On a rainy, late summer’s morning at Nose Hill Park, eight Silvera employees met with a local Indigenous woman to harvest wild sage and learn about its importance to Indigenous culture.

The employees were led by Chantel Large, who is the Cultural Services Manager at Miskanawah, an agency that provides social services assistance to local Indigenous individuals and families who need support, and through ceremony, programming, and resources, reconnect them with their communities.

Through Miskanawah, Chantel hosts groups of individuals who wish to learn more about how Indigenous communities harvest and use sage, including during smudging ceremonies, where sage smoke is used to clear mind, body and spirit; during prayers and ceremonies; and to help with healing.

Miskanawah invites the public to harvest sage in the summer that they then dry for use in ceremonies throughout the winter.

“It was wonderful to learn from Chantel who generously shared her teachings with our group,” says Travis Ouchi, Silvera’s Learning and Development Lead. “She told stories, sang songs and shared a great deal of wisdom with us.”

Travis explains that before his group went to harvest sage, they first experienced a smudging ceremony, and cleansed themselves with the smoke from burning sage.

The group then listened to Chantel sing songs in Cree before she provided guidance about how to pick sage sustainably, indicating what size the plant should be, and where to cut the plant for the best harvest without harming the mother plant.

“Anytime we take something, we give something back,” says Chantel. “The idea of reciprocity is about maintaining balance in the world. The plant is giving itself to help us, so we honour that plant and thank it, offer a prayer.”

Chantel explained that while picking sage, it’s important to think positive thoughts so you are not in a negative frame of mind during the harvest.

The group walked a few kilometres off-path to find the abundant clusters of sage. They gathered sage leaves for a short while until the rain fell.

The sage harvest is a small way Silvera is learning about Indigenous cultures and showing allyship with Indigenous communities, says Travis. “We would like to take part in another sage harvest with more of our employees, and further develop our partnerships with Indigenous communities through purposeful contributions.”