FOND FAREWELL TO THE FAM­ILY TREE

Metis Na­tion of Al­berta, U of A to cel­e­brate life of plant

Metro Canada (Edmonton) - - Your Essential Daily News - Michelle guthrie With fileS from Alex Boyd

David Garneau is the great great grand­child of the planters of Garneau’s Tree — which is be­ing re­moved after 143 years

Garneau’s tree has stood in the same spot for 143 years, as the land around it shifted from home­steader’s yard to a park­ing lot on the Univer­sity of Al­berta cam­pus.

Now the two-pronged Man­i­toba maple is slated for re­moval, after be­ing deemed un­safe by ar­borists.

“It’s def­i­nitely a loss for the Garneau com­mu­nity,” said Dan Rose, vice-chair of the Edmonton His­tor­i­cal Board. “It is, after all, a tree and has a nat­u­ral life cy­cle. But it’s re­mark­able how at­tached the com­mu­nity is to the tree.”

Lau­rent Garneau, a Métis set­tler who fought for Louis Riel, and his wife Eleanor planted the tree on their home­stead around 1874, mak­ing it one of the old­est trees in the city. Today the tree stands on the east side of one of the Univer­sity of Al­berta’s HUB mall park­ing lots.

But the tree won’t go with­out a good­bye.

The U of A and the Metis Na­tion of Al­berat are host­ing a cer­e­mony Fri­day to cel­e­brate the tree and it’s con­nec­tion to lo­cal his­tory. Métis el­ders will carry out open­ing and clos­ing prayers, and there will be re­flec­tions and sto­ries from mem­bers of the com­mu­nity.

The Garneaus’ great great grandson, David Garneau, an artist who grew up in the city and now teaches at the Univer­sity of Regina, flew back to Edmonton for the oc­ca­sion.

“It’s re­ally won­der­ful that to­mor­row evening the Metis com­mu­nity will be get­ting to­gether,” he said, point­ing out that the tree is an im­por­tant marker for lo­cal his­tory, / Metis her­itage in par­tic­u­lar.

Garneau came back to the city when he first heard the tree was to be taken down, and a lot of peo­ple, “peo­ple who weren’t Metis or Garneaus” shared sto­ries and pho­tos with him about the tree.

“There are a lot of trees out there, but peo­ple know this one.”

He said when the tree comes down he’s hop­ing to get his hands on some of the wood, so he can send to­kens to the other Garneau de­scen­dants.

Rose said that the tree is in the city’s In­ven­tory of His­toric Re­sources, a list usu­ally re­served for build­ings. He hopes that some of the wood from the tree could be in­cor­po­rated into a new plaque or his­tor­i­cal marker, or even a bench.

David Ri­d­ley, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Edmonton Her­itage Coun­cil, said that the tree is an im­por­tant point of ref­er­ence in terms of who was here, what hap­pened, and how the com­mu­nity has de­vel­oped.

“This is a par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant (his­tor­i­cal land­mark). We see them as im­por­tant in their own right be­cause they re­mind us of peo­ple and places and events that are sig­nif­i­cant to the city,” said Ri­d­ley.

The univer­sity plans to re­move the tree in the com­ing weeks — but there has been no set date for the re­moval.

“It’s won­der­ful to have th­ese things in the ur­ban land­scape and it’s sad when we lose them,” said Ri­d­ley. “I like the idea of that cer­e­mony. It’s a kind of fu­neral for the pass­ing of some­thing rather than not car­ing or not­ing at all.”

Kevin Tuong/for meTro

David garneau is the great great grand­child of Lau­rent and Eleanor garneau, who planted the garneau tree.

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