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The Great Pawpaw Parade: Small Seeds, Big Impact

The Great Pawpaw Parade was bigger than ever this year, celebrating an iconic native species that continues to bring people together across the Carolinian Zone. In 2022, in partnership with several communities and organizations, Carolinian Canada helped distribute 400+ pawpaw trees and native plant garden kits to folks across the zone. 

The pawpaw tree is a rare species native to North America that has suffered major habitat loss, leaving behind only a few fragile populations as a result of European settlement. Not only is this species essential to the culture of many First Nations peoples in eastern North America, but also the pawpaw services as a food source.  

The spirit and practice of reconciliation on the land is at the heart of the Pawpaw Parade. 

This year, the Indigenous Leadership team at CC distributed 100+ pawpaws to 11 Indigenous groups across the zone. From planting pawpaws and connecting to the land, to sharing stories and connecting with one another, the Pawpaw Parade helped foster both ecological and human networks, connecting communities with local diversity.  

One of the Indigenous pawpaw events was with a partnership between the Eshkiniigjik Naandwechigegamig, Aabiish Gaa Binjibaaying (ENAGB) Youth Agency and the Anishnawbe Wellness Collective. These groups hosted a ceremony to plant the trees, involving and empowering their youth in the planting. 

Another group, Deshkan Ziibiing, received 10 pawpaws during the 2021 Pawpaw Parade that were not big enough to be planted at the time, so the group stewarded the trees throughout the year as they grew. This year, we celebrate that 5 of those pawpaws were ready to be planted due to the caring stewardship that this group has provided to the trees. 

The 2022 Pawpaw Parade also included a multi-disciplinary group of 21 host organizations across the Carolinian Zone to help spread this amazing tree to more gardens than ever before. When asked for host applications, the CC team was met with an explosion of enthusiasm from many organizations that want to restore the Pawpaw in their own communities. These organizations received pawpaws and hosted their own giveaway events in their communities. 

One of the hosts, the St. Jacobs Woolwich Butterflyway project, hosted a garden party to distribute their pawpaws and showcase a pollinator garden they created in a repurposed canoe.  

“We had great weather, lots of fun, and generated tons of interest in Pawpaw trees and pollinator habitats. We re-imagined and re-purposed a canoe to make a contained pollinator-friendly garden filled with native plants and grasses that are already bringing smiles and new life to the area! We launched our canoe garden and celebrated Pawpaw Month the Butterflyway – with style, hot drinks, sweet nourishment, and lots of socializing!” said DJ Hanna, representing the St. Jacobs Woolwich Butterflyway project. 

Another pawpaw parade host organization, The Green Herons, is a nature center in the Niagara Region that connects youth ages 7 to 12 with local biodiversity. The Green Herons hosted an event to build bat boxes, plant pawpaws, and connect the students and their families to the land. 

“We are grateful that our students could be involved in such an amazing opportunity to do some hands-on learning and share these trees across the Niagara Region. There is nothing more special than connecting our youth to this important zone. We have made some really great community connections and can’t wait to watch these trees (and our students) spread their roots into this special place we live,” said Linsday Currie from The Green Herons. 

Just as pawpaw seeds can grow a forest, youth will define the future. A small seed can have a big impact if it is given the opportunity to grow. 

To continue supporting the connections between youth and the land, check out Carolinian Canada’s next event in the Shifting the Paradigm virtual forum series, titled Youth: Feeding the Fire of the Future. This event will give the floor to a panel of youth to discuss the future of stewardship and how to best support youth movements. 

If you are interested in becoming a host for next year’s Great Pawpaw Parade and other potential opportunities, you can apply on Carolinian Canada’s website: 

Carolinian Canada is supported financially by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, 3M, Dragonfly Ventures, WWF-Canada, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Greenbelt Foundation, City of London, London Community Foundation, Pillar Non-Profit Network, and many other partners and donors.