Owen Wilson of Wagalus School stirs the soup pot under the watchful eye of a North Island Secondary School student as they prepare for the recent Grassroots Garden harvest feast at NISS.

Harvest a treat for senses and education

Wagalus School students took part in a harvest feast, but it was a long time in the making.

Caitlin Hartnett Special to the Gazette

PORT McNEILL — Wagalus School students took part in a harvest feast, but it was a long time in the making.

For many months, students prepared for this day.

They worked with the Grassroots Garden Society to plan, observe, plant, tend and harvest the ingredients. They learned about photosynthesis, how plants grow, and why they’re important.

Now all this hard work was to culminate in a celebration, a celebration of their work, their learning, and the local organic produce that resulted: garlic, tomatoes, strawberries, tomatillos, potatoes and sunflowers.

The harvest feast was held Sept. 30 at North Island Secondary School where Mrs. McCrae’s high school students gathered to help with the food preparation.

These dedicated teens tended to the younger Wagalus students, and together they worked from start to finish in the kitchens of Mrs. McCrae’s classroom, hovering parentally over the Wagalus youth and patiently teaching them how to safely handle a knife.

Side by side they washed and cut potatoes to roast, diced tomatoes and tomatillos for salsa, and, from time to time, interrupted their preparations to stir big steaming pots of potato cheddar soup.

Between the preparations and the feast, Mervyn Child and drum-carriers Walter and Tom Brown warmed up their voices, drawing the group of students and staff to the adjacent room with a Wuikinuxv welcome song.

The group then joined hands in a circle and acknowledged the hard work of those who had made the feast possible: the dedication of Wagalus teachers Karen Aoki and Jackie Hunt, the coordinating work of Maria Patskoviski, and the guidance of Dawn Moorhead and David Lang from Grassroots Garden Society.

Once the tables were set, students, teachers, and guests gathered to dine, but first turned their ears to Elder Mary Hunt who offered, in Kwa’kwala, a prayer for the food.

The diners then indulged, beginning with the potato cheddar soup, which was followed by a  main course of locally caught fresh salmon, barbequed by Wilfred Hunt, nestled between roasted potatoes.

A confetti of  fresh salsa was served on the side along with homemade rolls, courtesy of Rupert Wilson, Jr., which were  garnished with fresh strawberry jam.

As the group relished the meal, Merv, Walter, and Tom rose and sang a feast song at the head of the room. Everyone turned to listen.

After the grand finale of apple crisp, students decorated scarecrows (some with many eyes) and plucked seeds from dried sunflower heads for winter bird seed and spring planting.

To end the day the group danced several am’lala, honoring and acknowledging the efforts and abundance of the day’s event.