Our Programs



The Traditional Plants and Foods Program?is a long-term general wellness and diabetes prevention program that recognizes the therapeutic value of traditional foods and medicines.? Regular gatherings are hosted by many tribal communities.? We offer educational resources, ?? tribal community workshops, and more.? Read more

The Institute of Indigenous Foods and Traditions?is a house of knowledge where NWIC Cooperative Extension program successes and resources can be shared. Through embracing ancestral teachings and identifying successful models for change, we are working to build tribal community strength and resilience. The Institute offers an annual conference, leadership development, train the trainers programs, best practices think tanks, and models for systemic community change.??Read more

The Lummi Traditional Foods Project?was started in 2009 to increase access to healthy local foods and traditional foods in the Lummi community.? Twenty Lummi families receive boxes of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables throughout the spring, summer and fall. ?Plus, educational programs have taught the families about 1) preparation and preservation of foods received, 2) general nutrition, 3) how to shop for healthy foods on a fixed budget, and 4) ways to gather, prepare, and preserve traditional and wild-harvested foods.??Read more

The Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project?was started in 2010 to build community food security by examining that tribe’s food assets and accessibility.? Monthly hands-on workshops that address traditional food principles and a modern approach to a traditional foods diet are offered.? Traditional foods feasts are planned that feature seasonal foods and offer community members a chance to learn more about when, where, and how to harvest each food.??Read more

The NWITC Traditional Foods and Medicines Programis offered through a partnership with the Northwest Indian Treatment Center in Elma, Washington.? Classes offered to inpatient residents address methods for growing, harvesting, processing, and preparation.? Tribal elders, storytellers, and cultural specialists speak as part of the program. ?Patients gain hands-on experience by working in three on-site teaching gardens.??Read more

Plant Medicine

Devils club

We call the plants the First People.? They were the first created in our oral tradition before the animals, before the fish, before the birds, and their duty was to hold the earth together and live their life as a teaching for those who would be created in the future.?

The plants left many things to us as human beings.? They left the ones who would be our food, they left the ones that would be our medicine, they left the ones that would be our building material, they left the ones that would be our basketry material, they left the ones that would be the scent and fragrance of the sacred in this universe, they left beauty and they dressed the earth.? The earth was bare before the plant people were created.?

Bruce Miller, from Gifts of the First People

Bruce Miller was a revered Skokomish elder and cultural bearer who inspired the Northwest Indian College Traditional Plants and Foods Program.? He and other Northwest Coastal Indian Elders have told us that plants are our teachers.? If we remember how to listen to them and learn from them, they can help us become good healthy people.? Plants can help us to remember and re-connect with where we come from and the cultural wealth that we carry.

Our plants program embraces and promotes the healing traditions of plant medicine.? Please watch our news blog for information about harvesting, preparing, preserving, and using medicinal plants that are in season.? To view our favorite resources on plant medicine see the Indigenous Foods and Herbal Medicines Resource Guide at the bottom of this page or on the Resources page.



Few things are more rewarding than venturing out into the wild to harvest your own food and medicine. If you have never gathered plants before, it may feel a little daunting at first.? If possible, find someone who can show you how and where to gather.? Proper plant identification is essential.

Plants that you grow or harvest yourself will probably be higher quality than what you could buy.? Unfortunately, many herbs in stores may have been sitting on the shelf too long or may be grown or processed in poor conditions.? It is reassuring to know where your plants come from and who handles them.? Having said this, make sure that the area you are gathering from has not been sprayed with pesticides?or other chemicals.? Gathering along roadsides or in agricultural areas is not recommended.

Calendula drying

Harvesting Throughout the Seasons

Knowing when to harvest a plant can be confusing.? Your intuition will tell you a lot.? As you watch plants through the seasons, look for where the vitality is.? Harvest whatever part of the plant you need when it is at its prime.

Leaves: spring and summer
Flowers: spring and summer
Seeds: summer and fall
Bark: fall and spring
Roots: fall and spring

Time of Day

The best time of day to gather plants is in the morning after the dew has dried.? This is usually when their medicine is most potent.? If you are gathering plants to dry them, do not harvest on a rainy day.? Chances are, they will mold.

How Much Do I Harvest?

Always check out the area and make sure that you are leaving behind enough plants for the plant community to continue flourishing.? Use your senses and your intuition to estimate how much you can take while keeping the plant community strong.? Most plants will actually benefit from some pruning and harvesting.? Also, make sure you do not take more plants than you have time to process at home.

Herbs drying on rack

Drying Plants

If you are drying flowers, hips or seeds, lay them on flat baskets or in paper bags.? Spread them out so they are only one layer thick and turn them every day so they will dry evenly.? Plant stalks or leaves can be dried this way or can be bundled with rubber bands and hung from the ceiling on a beam with nails or a hanging rack.? Dry plants in a warm place out of direct sunlight.? Good airflow will help speed up the process.? Wait until the plants are completely dry before storing them in mason jars, paper or plastic bags.? When your plants are dry, they should look and smell like the plant did when it was fresh.? If they have turned brown and have lost their scent, they have probably lost their nutritional and medicinal value.



The making of herbal teas for enjoyment, nourishment and wellness is a creative art.? There is a bit of science to it as well, but for the most part, brewing teas is a flexible and forgiving process.? The following guide-lines are intended to help you extract the healing properties of plants into tea in an easy & efficient way.

Gathering Your Herbs

Dried herbs are usually used for making tea.? During the drying process, plant cell walls break open and dehydrate.? When hot water is poured over plant material it easily rehydrates and extracts the taste, scent, nutritive and medicinal properties.? Fresh herbs are fine for making tea if you want a light and aromatic brew, but it will not be as strong tasting and medicinal as dried herbal teas.

Having good quality herbs makes all the difference in the flavor and medicinal effectiveness of tea.? If you buy herbal teas at the store, try to purchase loose-leaf tea that has not been ground into a fine powder (these teas are not in bags).? The more ground up herbs are, the more they lose their medicinal value over time.? Loose-leaf teas can be put directly into a teapot or non-aluminum pan with a lid.? You can buy a strainer that fits over your teacup to catch the herbs.

When available, purchase organic and fair-trade teas.? They may be a little more expensive but they do not contain pesticides and you are supporting sustainable plant growers.? If you buy teas in a store, make sure that the dried herbs look and smell something like the fresh herbs.? Well-dried herbs should still have color and scent.

Proper Proportions of Herb & Water

When preparing teas, feel free to experiment and choose the proportion of herb to water that suits your taste.? If you are using the tea as a medicine, the ratio of herb to water should be enough to produce a fairly strong and medicinally active tea.? The ratio should also be consistent so that you can measure an appropriate dose of the tea each time you prepare a new batch.? A general ratio for infusions is:

1 ounce of dried herb per 1 quart of water or
1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon per cup of water (use less for dense herbs and more for light-weight herbs)


berry tea

The aerial parts of plants (leaves, flowers, soft fruits, and any seeds high in volatile oils) are usually made into an infusion, which means they are soaked in boiled water.? Gently crush the dried herb between your fingers if it is not already coarsely ground (cut and sifted).? Fresh plant parts are usually chopped before infusing, but you may want to leave some flowers whole so that you can enjoy their beauty as the tea is steeping.

Making an Infusion:??Place the proper amount of herb in a container (a teapot or a quart canning jar, for example) and cover with boiling water.? Place a tight fitting lid on the container.? Let steep for 10 to 20 minutes, and then pour through a strainer.? Tannin-rich herbs such as black and green tea should steep for less time because they will turn bitter if steeped too long.? Mineral-rich herbs such as horsetail, red clover and nettle are best when steeped several hours to overnight.

Solar Infusions

Teas can also be prepared using the energy of the sun.? These infusions will rarely taste as strong or be as medicinal as those prepared by boiling water methods but the sun lends its own subtle healing energy to medicinal teas.? To prepare a solar infusion, place herbs in a tightly covered clear glass jar and set in direct sunlight for several hours.? Douglas fir tip, lavender, rose petal and mint are some favorite sun teas.


Roots, bark and tough fruits and seeds are usually simmered in water to enhance extraction of their medicinal properties.? This method of tea-making is called decocting.? The plant should be coarsely chopped.? (This can be achieved either by purchasing “cut and sifted” herb, by chopping the herb with some clippers or by grinding the herb in a clean coffee grinder or blender.)? In the United States and Europe, the usual time for simmering a decoction is 15 to 20 minutes.? It is worth mentioning that in China and many other countries, herbs are often simmered for several hours and very strong medicinal decoctions are consumed.? Remember that roots that are high in volatile oils, including valerian or osha, are best infused instead of decocted so that aromatic compounds are not lost during boiling.

Making a Decoction:??Measure herb and water.? A general proportion is one teaspoon of herb per cup of water or one oz. of herb per quart of water.? Place herb in a pot, cover with cool water, and gently bring to a boil on the stove.? Reduce heat, cover the pot with a lid and let tea simmer at least 15 minutes before straining.

Storing Teas

Teas are best consumed fresh, but when necessary, you can prepare larger batches and store them in the refrigerator in a tightly closed container for up to three days.? Teas may also be stored in the freezer for a few weeks.

rose hip tea

Healthy Heart Tea

1 part Hawthorn leaf and flower
1 part Hawthorn berry
1 part rosehip
1 part lemon balm
? part lavender

Hawthorn and rosehips are high in antioxidants and flavenoids that help to strengthen cardiovascular tissue.? Lemon balm is an uplifting herb that is used to ease wintertime depression and fight viruses. ?Lavender helps dispel tension and adds a nice flavor to this tea.? Blend all ingredients and store in a cool place out of direct sunlight. ?Use 1 tablespoon per cup of hot water, steep 15 minutes, strain and enjoy!


Our Northwest Indian College Cooperative Extension Traditional Plants and Foods Program offers a variety of resources.? The following documents include the most valuable educational tools we have found for our Western Washington-based programs.? For resources on tribal food sovereignty please visit the bottom of the?food sovereignty page.



Participant Fee: $50/day

pouring salve

Diabetes Prevention through Traditional Plants –? 3 day training

Making Plant Medicine-?? 2 day training

First Aid for the Canoe Journey-? 1 day training

?Pea Patch Gardens-? 3 day training

Natural Remedies for Skin Health-? 1 day training

The Medicine of Trees- 1 day training



train the trainer photo 1

We offer community classes on native foods, herbal medicine, gardening, diabetes prevention through traditional plants and more.? The cost is $150 per hour for teaching time plus travel and supplies.

Contact 360-392-4248 if you are interested in scheduling a training or class for your community.?


Susan Given Seymour, M.Ed., Director of Cooperative Extension, Outreach and Community Education.??Susan has been working at Northwest Indian College for twenty + years.? Currently she directs programming in the areas of Traditional Foods & Medicines, Financial Literacy, Cultural Arts, Youth Leadership Development, Tribal Casino Management, & Tribal Museum Studies.? Susan serves on the Native American Advisory Board to the Burke Museum.? She has been described as a “museum junky”. Email:sgiven@nwic.edu


Elizabeth Campbell, Traditional Foods Educator,?specializes in growing and gathering healthy food. She received a Bachelor of Arts from the Evergreen State College focusing on Education, Native American studies and the Practice of Sustainable Agriculture. She is the program assistant for the N.W. Indian Treatment Center’s Traditional Foods and Medicines Project. As a member of the Spokane Tribe she grew up harvesting native foods with her family. She now owns and operates a small organic family farm in Shelton, Washington.? Email:?ecampbell@nwic.edu


Tami Chock, Community Outreach Programs Coordinator,? joined the Cooperative Extension team in January 2010 after serving for nearly 10 years at a non-profit organization in the Lummi tribal community. She earned her BS in Environmental Science and Elementary Education, and is currently earning her MEd. Tami provides organizational support and works with Cooperative Extension staff to design evaluations that can be used to continually improve our department and programs to meet the needs of the communities we serve.? Email:?tchock@nwic.edu


Vanessa Cooper, Lummi Traditional Plants Educator,?is an enrolled member of the Lummi tribe and has worked for the Northwest Indian College’s Cooperative Extension since 2006. She now coordinates the Lummi Traditional Food Project and teaches community education classes on the uses of traditional plants as food and for healthy living. Her work promotes healthy lifestyle changes by providing opportunities for the community to participate in activities that encourage making healthy choices. She is passionate about working side by side with her community in bringing the cultural teachings to life.? Email:?vcooper@nwic.edu


Elise Krohn, Traditional Foods Educator and Herbalist, is passionate about cultivating healing relationships between plants and people.? Since 2005 she has taught classes, developed curriculum and coordinated events for the Northwest Indian College Cooperative Extension’s Traditional Plants and Foods Program.? Elise also directs the NWIC Traditional Foods and Medicines program at the Northwest Indian Treatment Center. She has a Master of Education from Leslie University and a Bachelor of Science from The Evergreen State College.? Elise is the author of the book?Wild Rose and Western Red Cedar?and the co-author of?Feeding the People, Feeding the Spirit.? Email:?ekrohn@nwic.edu



La Belle Urbanec, Institute of Indigenous Foods and Traditions Coordinator,?“Undergraduate internships have expanded my indigenous awareness and understanding of the environmental impacts on our culture(s). Each of these internships has reinforced my belief that we need to address our environmental issues with a louder voice and a proactive attitude. I believe that our traditional cultural ways of interacting with our surroundings need to be melded with current pro-environmental practices to work toward a healthier environment for all.”?Email:?lurbanec@nwic.edu

Traditional Foods


Before European colonization, the Puget Sound region was one of the most densely populated and richest food places on the planet.? Stories passed down through the generations tell us that many types of berries, roots, bulbs, nuts, and seeds were all an important part of a Northwest Coastal Indian diet.? These nutritious and diverse foods contributed to the excellent health and rich cultural traditions of Northwest Coastal Indian ancestors.

Archaeological studies confirm oral tradition.? In order to prevent diabetes and other chronic diseases that affect many American Indians today, a team of researchers from the Burke Museum partnered with the Muckleshoot, Suquamish, and Tulalip Tribes, and King County to assess what foods were eaten by native people before European contact.? What they found was remarkable.? Over 300 types of food remains were identified.? This number does not accurately represent plant foods, which deteriorate much more quickly than animal bones.? To link to the archeological study and database click?here

Another thing the archaeological study confirmed is that Northwest Coastal Indian ancestors traveled to different areas to harvest foods that were seasonally abundant.? For example, they might have traveled to the prairies in spring to harvest bulbs like camas, to the rivers in the summer to harvest eulachon, and to the mountains in late summer to harvest huckleberries.? They hunted, fished, and gathered when the food was most abundant and also at its peak in nutritive quality.

Native people actively managed the land before Europeans arrived.? Special techniques, including burning, weeding, aerating the soil, and pruning, were used to increase the bounty of wild foods.? This was beneficial for many species.? Without these techniques, some important plants may well have disappeared from the Northwest long ago.

Strict food protocols were followed for harvesting, preparing, serving, and eating foods.? These protocols protected natural resources and insured continued abundance.? First Food Ceremonies celebrated peoples’ relationships with food and the land through song and story, reaffirming a connection with the land, the plants, the animals, and the water. ?The spirit of each food was honored.? Many of these traditions continue today.

Many Northwest Coastal Indian elders fondly remember how their happiest times were ones where they gathered traditional foods with their friends and family.? These were unifying moments, when people worked together over a common goal. ?Stories and laughter were shared while hands processed fish, berries, and nuts.? As Cowlitz elder, Rudolph Ryser, PhD, from the Center for World Indigenous Studies says, “The kitchen table was a place where cultural knowledge was passed from one generation to the next.”


A Time of Change

In just a few generations, Northwest Coastal Indian peoples’ ability to eat native foods has declined. ?During European colonization, communities were moved from their homeland onto small reservations.? Some land management practices were made illegal and were replaced with European style farming where land is cleared and plowed.? Children were sent to boarding schools in an attempt to strip them of their culture. They were given European names and prohibited from speaking their language.? Practicing many cultural traditions, including food traditions, became illegal.? This legacy of trauma can take generations to heal.

Northwest Coastal Indian peoples’ health has also suffered from a loss of native foods, which are full of complex nutrients including vitamins, minerals, good quality fats, and antioxidants.? During colonization, these foods were replaced with commodity foods that are high in carbohydrates, sugar, and poor quality fats. ?As people became more sedentary and adopted new European-style foods, diabetes began to appear.? Diabetes was virtually non-existent among Northwest Coastal Indian people about 125 years ago and now it is at epidemic levels.? Studies also link trauma from colonization directly to diabetes and other chronic diseases.

Access to native foods has steadily declined since treaty times.? Environmental toxins in wild foods prohibit people from hunting, fishing, and gathering in some areas.? Elders from many communities grieve that they can no longer harvest and prepare the foods they grew up eating. ?The implications of this are vast.? As the availability of these foods decreases, the stories, songs, and language connected to them fall silent.? Invaluable aspects of the culture are lost.A way of perceiving life, nature, and healthy, native foods disappears.

In the face of these great obstacles, it is incredible that Northwest Coastal people have held on to their food traditions.??And yet they have.? The current resurgence of cultural traditions is nothing short of a renaissance.? Elders are gathering to remember and teach.? Families and communities are restoring harvest areas and are picking up the digging stick and the basket.? Gardens are being planted.? Land partnerships and food policy initiatives are developing.? Native foods are being embraced as a powerful tool to fight modern chronic diseases, including diabetes.? They are reconnecting people to the seasons and the land, which is beautifully woven into Northwest Coastal Indian culture.



From Elise Krohn and Valerie Segrest

In 2008-2010, our Northwest Indian College Cooperative Extension Department conducted a community-based participatory research project to increase native food access and usage. ?We worked with tribal elders, cooks, healthcare workers, cultural specialists, archeologists, and others to address this question: ?How do we utilize research about traditional foods of Puget Sound Indians to create a healthier diet and lifestyle for Indian people today?

Part 1 – Create a modern native foods diet:??Through reviewing archeological records and ethnographic accounts, along with interviewing elders and cultural specialists, we identified native foods that are still readily available and palatable.? We also included some locally grown foods that are nutritionally similar to native foods.? For example, blueberries can be eaten if huckleberries are not accessible.

Part 2 – Organize Community Roundtable Discussions:? We brought together over 90 people from tribal communities in the Puget Sound region to ask what native foods people are still harvesting, what the barriers are to harvesting those foods, and potential ways to overcome those barriers.

Many participants shared stories about fishing, gathering clams and oysters on the beach, and berry picking. ?While some tribes have a large land base to harvest native foods, others like Snoqualmie and Cowlitz do not have a land base and rely on forming partnerships with public and private landholders.? This can be a real challenge.? Several urban Indians who live in cities like Seattle have limited access to native foods, and they said that this impacts their sense of cultural connection.

Some of the most important barriers that participants shared include toxins in the environment, a loss of traditional harvesting grounds, cultural oppression, land regulations that prohibit gathering of native foods, environmental changes including non-native species and land management practices, and economic challenges.

Participants shared many exciting ideas and talked about current projects aimed at revitalizing native food systems. ?Some of these included community and family gardens, environmental restoration projects that promote native foods, community food banks, land partnerships with federal, state, local and private land holders, partnerships with local food producers and distributors, educational programs, and food policy initiatives.

Part 3 – Tribal Cooks Camp:???Twenty cooks from eight different tribal communities came together for three days of “recipe brainstorming.” ?Each cook shared knowledge about foods that he or she specializes in.? This was a high point in our culinary experiences, as we prepared and sampled delicious recipes including camas nettle soup, spinach and wild rice salad, seafood chowder, clam fritters, roasted venison with wild blackberry sauce, salmon baked in skunk cabbage, hazelnut cakes with thimbleberry sauce, wild berry crisp, and many other delectable dishes.

Part 4 – Process and Share Outcomes:??As we talked with cooks, elders, and traditional foods specialists about what a modern traditional foods diet might look like, a revitalized way of thinking about food emerged.? As elders discussed their cultural beliefs around food, we noticed that many Indian people hold common values that are as applicable today as they were generations ago. ?We call these?Traditional Foods Principles.? They address the physical and spiritual health of individuals and communities in conjunction with the well-being of the land.

Food is at the Center of Culture
Honor the Food Web / Chain
Eat with the Seasons
Eat a Variety of Foods
Traditional Foods are Whole Foods
Eat Local Foods
Wild and Organic Foods are Better for Health
Cook and Eat with Good Intention

In 2010, we compiled the project findings, including many stories, drawings, photos, and recipes, in a book entitled?Feeding the People, Feeding the Spirit: Revitalizing Northwest Native Food Culture. ?Over 3,000 copies of the book have been distributed to participating tribal communities.? In order to honor the cultural property rights of program participants, the book is not available outside of tribal communities.? A public version is in the works and will be published late in 2013.

A Northwest Native Foods curriculum was developed based on the project.? Each of the nine classes includes a native foods principle, information on how to harvest and cook many foods, and the nutritional importance of a native foods diet.? The curriculum will be released with public access in summer 2013.

A tremendous amount of information was gathered throughout the Traditional Foods of Puget Sound Project.? Many stories were shared, some full of loss and hardship, and others full of hope and the promise of a better future.? Hearing stories, both past and present, is healing in itself.? It validates peoples’ experiences and speaks to how important food is to the culture.

Traditional Foods Educational Resources:

Traditional Plants


Our Traditional Plants and Foods Program is a general long-term wellness program that recognizes the therapeutic value of traditional foods, medicines, and lifestyles.?? We serve native people and those who work within tribal communities in Washington State and nearby regions.

Regularly scheduled workshops teach people about native foods nutrition, culinary arts, gardening, herbal medicine, and much more.? Through community-based participatory research, we identify barriers that keep people from re-adopting traditional healthy food behaviors and then develop programs to overcome those barriers.? We examine community food assets and accessibility, with the ultimate goal of improving food security and tribal food sovereignty.? We use mentoring relationships and train-the-trainer workshops to increase the number of community educators able to teach about traditional plants and foods and healthy food behaviors.?? We offer innovative educational resources on native plants and foods including curricula, books, and other tools.? And we identify job skills and opportunities related to traditional plants and foods, with the goal of providing job skills trainings.

Tribal Community Gatherings

Quarterly gatherings are hosted by participating tribal communities.? Each gathering highlights the hosting tribe’s knowledge and resources.? Participants learn not only about the cultural importance of the foods and medicines, but also how and when to gather, process, and prepare them.? Handouts and samples are given to participants so they can remember and share what they learned.

Our first gathering in 2005 was hosted by the Makah Tribe.? Cultural specialists, health care workers, educators, and tribal elders from over a dozen tribes came.? Theresa Parker (Makah) helped organize the gathering:

It was such a beautiful day.? After everyone toured our museum and cultural center, we led them on a hike on the ethnobotanical trail that was created by our youth and elders.? For lunch, we had halibut stew, herring row on eel grass, mussels, goose-neck barnacles, Ozette potatoes, berries, and horsetail fertile shoots!? The elders just lit up while they shared stories about the foods that were an such important part of their childhood.

Since then, 18 tribes have hosted over 60 gatherings.? Storytelling, hands-on activities, intergenerational sharing, and delicious native foods are always a part of the day.? Last spring the Lower Elwha Tribe hosted a gathering about harvesting, processing and preparing seaweed.? Wild foods expert Jennifer Hahn led us through the low tidal zone and helped participants identify over 12 different kinds of edible and medicinal seaweeds.? In the afternoon we convened at the Elwha Klallam Heritage Training Center to prepare a feast of seaweed-based dishes including kelp pickles, cucumber seaweed salad, salmon baked in seaweed, and chocolate seaweed pudding.??To watch a video about the event created by Northwest Indian News click??here.




Every spring we gather at a local prairie to harvest camas bulbs.? Camas is an important traditional staple and was second only to salmon as a traded good among northwest tribes.? The nutritious white lily bulbs become sweet when they are roasted, yet do not raise blood sugar.? Last year we donated our harvest to the Squaxin Island Tribe for the Tribal Canoe Journey traditional foods dinner.



Other examples of gatherings include a Huckleberry Harvest Celebration at Swinomish, Making Herbal Gift for the Holidays at Muckleshoot, Building Strong Community Food Systems with Snoqualmie, A Celebration of Salish Seafoods at Jamestown, Bringing Back the Harvest at Quinault, Wild Spring Greens Harvest at Daybreak Star Cultural Center in Seattle and many more!? Our program continues to coordinate seasonal traditional plants and foods gatherings.? If you would like to host a gathering please contact Vanessa Cooper at vcooper@nwic.edu.

Train-the-Trainers Programs

Over the years, a strong community of people actively interested in traditional foods and medicines has developed.? Many participants requested additional in-depth training that would help them feel confident teaching in their own communities.? In response, we developed several train-the-trainers workshops.? These include Diabetes Prevention Through Traditional Plants, Creating a Pea Patch Garden, Herbal Medicine Making, Herbal Remedies for Winter Health, First Aid for the Canoe Journey, Natural Remedies for Skin Health, and The Medicine of Trees.

Lora Boome (Lummi) has participated in gatherings and train-the-trainer programs since the program’s inception.? She has gone on to train her family, youth in her community, and Northwest Indian College students and faculty.????? In her words:

For the past year, I have been teaching my family about traditional plants and their uses.? We make a variety of bath teas, teas, salves, lotions, and other herbal products for ourselves. ?I’m proud that I am sharing this knowledge with my family because it has united us.? There are a number of stories I have heard about my family gathering plants and berries. ?Other stories reveal facts about the seasons, and what each season brings.

The plants program continues to respond to the requests of those it serves.? In addition to offering past train-the-trainers workshops, our program staff is developing curricula related to native foods nutrition, growing plants, herbal medicine, tribal food sovereignty, and native culinary arts.

If you are a native person in Western Washington or if you serve tribal communities and you would like to participate in our programs please contact La Belle Urbanec at lurbanec@nwic.edu.

Traditional Plants Program Funders

We would like to thank our program funders including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington Health Foundation, First Nations Development Institute, National REACH Coalition, Whatcom Community Foundation, Honor the Earth Foundation, the Potlatch Fund,? St. Luke’s Foundation, St. Joseph Peace Health, and several Western Washington tribes, including Nisqually, Lummi, Tulalip, Muckleshoot, Quinault, Port Gamble S’Klallam, Squaxin Island, and Stillaguamish.

Tribal Gardens



Community gardens are potential places for healing.? In a time when families have limited resources including time and money, community gardens can provide nutritious food and medicine.? Garden is also a crossroads where diverse people come together to interact and connect.? Elders can share their stories and wisdom, while youth can share their insights, energy and enthusiasm.? Gardens have potential to foster community healing by bringing isolated people together over a common purpose.?? For many, gardening is a great way to relieve stress and to reconnect with nature.?? These tribal gardens in Western Washington are living examples of how people are cultivating healing relationships with plants, community, and place.? To view our Community Garden Resource Guide scroll to the bottom of the page.


Bernie Whitebear Daybreak Star Garden

Located in Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Discovery Park, Seattle, WA., the Bernie Whitebear Daybreak Star Garden is a teaching, healing and learning garden and gathering place that honors people of all ages and backgrounds. The Garden contains a living treasure of 90 species of culturally important plants that are key to supporting the health, well-being, and traditions of Coast Salish and other local First Peoples. The plants in the Bernie Whitebear Garden come from a variety of Pacific Northwest habitats, from open, seasonally dry meadows to old-growth rain forests. A few plants from east of the mountains are included, highlighting the importance of trade and travel to the First People of this place. Through our work with Northwest Coast native plants, the Friends of the Garden honor the deep history and continued presence of the Coast Salish peoples who are the original inhabitants of the land now known as Discovery Park. Learning about the plants in the garden, their stories and their uses, we gain an every greater appreciation of the richness, depth and breadth of Coast Salish peoples’ enduring connections to these plants and to the land.

For more information visit?http://daybreakgarden.org?or contact Joyce Mastenbrook atjklm@uw.edu


The Makah Ethnobotanical Trail

An important outdoor exhibit featured at the Makah Cultural and Research Center is the Makah Ethnobotanical Garden. It circles through a forested area adjacent to the museum. Theresa Parker, the educational curator at the museum, remembers how children played in that area before the trail was created. Those same children helped build the trail and took ownership as they transplanted traditional foods, medicinal and basketry plants in the area.? Now those children are grown and have children of their own.? The trail is about 15 years old and continues to be a source of cultural knowledge for the Makah people.

According to Theresa & Keely Parker, creating the trail brought community members together. Elders told stories about the plants. Cultural knowledge including interrelationships between plants and foods from the sea was shared by community members. Neighboring communities including Clallam Bay and Quileute were part of the trails creation. Groups from all over the nation including Global Works, the Evergreen State College, Pacific Lutheran University and elementary school groups from Seattle came to volunteer. The head start children planted an Ozette potato garden. School groups continue to visit the garden so that children and teachers can learn to identify and use different plants and trees.

Each sign in the garden has the common plant name, the traditional Makah name, and information about traditional uses. One of the activities for second graders in the garden has been to create a list of all the trees, berries and other bushes.? Children get clipboards and check off the plants they see as they go.? Through visiting the garden they can experience the plants and trees hands-on.


The Nisqually Community Garden

The Nisqually Community Garden exists to further tribal goals of sovereignty, self-determination, self-sufficiency, sustainability, and food security. We work to support the health of the people, the plants, the animals, the water, and the land. The garden was started in 2009 to support healthy lifestyle changes and contribute to the healing of historical traumas within the tribe.? Our 3 primary goals are to:

  1. Grow and share a wealth of food & medicine for the Nisqually community
  2. Host people developing their expertise and enjoying the garden
  3. Develop community enterprise & sustainability

We tend 5 acres of traditional food and medicine plants, vegetables, berries, and fruit trees. All produce from the garden is distributed directly to tribal members, staff, and community members. Produce is delivered through a weekly Garden stand at the tribal center, regular deliveries to the Elders, Daycare, and Youth Centers, and coordination with cooks at special events. Families also come out to the garden to harvest their own food and medicine.

The garden is tended by a team of paid staff, including a 6 month seasonal apprenticeship program crew. We host youth field trips, organize classes & workshops, coordinate community events and dinners, preserve food, and make medicine and body care products for tribal & community members.

We work closely with other tribal departments and partner with allied organizations, and are constantly developing our approach based on lessons learned, participant feedback, and community-defined needs and solutions.

For more information contact Caitlin Krenn at?krenn.caitlin@nisqually-nsn.gov?or (360) 402-0302.


NWIC Cooperative Extension’s Medicine Wheel Garden

Members of the Lummi and Bellingham communities have joined forces with Northwest Indian College (NWIC) students, staff and faculty to create a garden on the Lummi campus that will nourish, heal, and teach the community.


The garden, which began in March of 2012, is located outside the department’s new building.

The purpose of the garden is to serve as a teaching tool for students and community members to learn how to use plants for food and medicine. ?This knowledge helps us to recapture the landscape of our culture and heritage. It will also serve as a tool for anyone to come develop special hands-on relationships with the plants.

The garden tells the story of our desire as Indian people to reclaim our cultural traditions and it signifies our ties to the land and the importance of living in partnership with it.

Food from the garden will be used for cooking classes and to supplement boxes of fresh produce that local families receive through the department during the growing season.? Medicinal plants will be harvested and used to make medicines including oils, salves and teas.? Kitchen herbs will be used to season recipes during cooking demonstrations that are offered through the Lummi Traditional Foods Project.

The garden isn’t quite complete yet, but volunteers including students and faculty from NWIC’s Indigenous Service Learning and Human Development classes have put a lot of effort into making it a reality.? Thank you to all who participated and volunteered in this project that will help feed our people.

For more information contact Vanessa Cooper at?vcooper@nwic.edu?or 360-392-4343


Northwest Indian Treatment Center Healing Gardens

The Northwest Indian Treatment Center is a 45-day drug and alcohol residential treatment program in Elma, Washington.?? The Traditional Foods and Medicines Program was integrated into the overall treatment center program in 2004 and is currently run through the Northwest Indian College Cooperative Extension Department.

Patients learn about growing, harvesting, preparing and preserving many of the plants that helped their ancestors to thrive in three on-site teaching gardens.? The Medicine Wheel Garden has eight beds with themes based on body systems and important cultural uses. ?Herbs are harvested from this garden to make teas, infused oils, salves, honeys and kitchen spices.? The Berry Garden features many wild edible berries that are loaded with nutrients that contribute to living a long and healthy life.? The Traditional Foods Garden includes plants that are eaten fresh, used in cooking demonstrations and integrated into daily meals.? Camas, Inchelium red garlic, Ozette potatoes, edible greens and the three sisters: corn, beans and squash are some of the foods that are grown.

Patients learn about soil health through composting food waste, paper scraps and yard debris.? The rich fertile soil that is produced helps garden plants to be robust, disease-free and highly nutritious.

Through participating in garden activities, many patients get excited about growing and harvesting their own food and medicine.? They remember stories from their youth and teachings from their elders.? They take in the gifts of the seasons and use traditional knowledge to care for themselves and those around them.??Read more

For more information contact Elise Krohn at?ekrohn@nwic.edu?or Elizabeth Campbell orecampbell@nwic.edu


Seattle University’s taqwsheblu Vi Hilbert Ethnobotanical Garden

Seattle University’s ethnobotanical garden is a place to learn about—and cultivate—sustainable and sensitive relationships between people and plants in our region. The garden is honored to bear the name of Upper Skagit elder taqwsheblu Vi Hilbert, who generously contributed two phrases in the Lushootseed language that capture local Native views of the non-human world: “The Earth is Our First Teacher,” and “Gifts of the Creator.”

In the spring of 2005, the garden began as a cooperative project between Seattle University’s Grounds members and Rob Efird, a professor of anthropology.? The 11,500 square foot patch of turf on campus was transformed into a more sustainably planted area of native plants that could be used as a resource for teaching.? The Lushootseed language plant names on the Garden’s signage are intended to honor the garden’s namesake, Vi Hilbert, and her efforts to “reawaken” and sustain the Lushootseed language and culture of the Puget Sound region.

Our vision of the Garden as a living classroom has encouraged us to reach out to local schools and welcome local students to participate in planting and learning activities in the Garden. ?Hundreds of camas bulbs in the prairie section of the Garden were planted by a large group of Native youth in the Seattle Public Schools’ Huchoosedah Indian Education Program’s after-school program. ?Huchoosedah has returned each year to the garden in a relationship that grows like the garden itself.

In the future we would like to see the Garden fulfill its potential as a learning resource not only for Seattle University students but also for members of our larger community, Native and non-Native, children and adults. ?We invite everyone to contribute ideas and suggestions for ways in which the garden can serve us all as an interactive, living classroom for subjects ranging from biology to the Lushootseed language.

For more information visit?http://www.seattleu.edu/artsci/ethnobotanical/Default.aspx?id=844?or contact Professor Rob Efird at?efirdr@seattleu.edu

The Snoqualmie Gardens

Snoqualmie Clinic Garden

The Snoqualmie Tribe has several gardens dedicated to teaching about plants and serving as resources for traditional foods and medicines.

Our oldest garden, The Medicine Wheel garden at the Tolt Clinic in Carnation was started by Dr. Terry Maresca in the early 2000’s for the purpose of providing an herbal alternative to conventional medicines at the clinic which serves the tribal and surrounding communities. Patients are surprised and pleased when offered this alternative for everything from a common cold to detoxification.

The Traditional Food and Medicine Garden in Carnation was installed in 2006 as a way to teach identification of local native plants important for berries, nuts, herbal medicines, natural dyes, fiber and more. These gardens surround our Pea Patch Gardens which demonstrate growing healthy organic vegetables in small spaces.

The Rain Garden at the Environmental Resources offices in Snoqualmie is a landscape with a diverse blend of ornamental native plantings and naturalized areas with a functional swale and pond which diverts runoff which previously flowed down the driveway and street into a salmonid creek. This landscape replaces a standard urban lawn with dozens of native plant species which were selected for ornamental value as well as their importance for food and medicine.

The Traditional Knowledge Trail is located on the Snoqualmie Reservation and meanders through a healthy forest along a year-round creek. We have removed invasive plants, restored degraded areas, and planted many new plants to improve diversity. We have developed the trail for access by tribal elders and those with limited mobility to harvest plants to use in our traditional foods and medicines. Interpretive signage and educational tours help to educate visitors about the importance of many of these plants for the Snoqualmie people.

For more information or to participate in seasonal tours and education activities contact Heidi Bohan at?heidi@snoqualmietribe.us

The Suquamish Gardens

The Suquamish Tribe has several gardens that feature culturally significant plants and nutritious foods.? The Pathway to Healing Garden is located at the Suquamish Tribal Administration Center.? It was created by community volunteers and is still being expanded.? Plants from this garden are used by the Suquamish Community Health Program.

The Indigenous Foods Garden is located immediately behind the Suquamish House of Awakened Culture. ?This garden serves as a demonstration garden for both edible landscaping and multicultural Indigenous foods.

The Elder’s Kitchen Garden is located on Hyak Lane next door to the Suquamish House of Awakened Culture.? This garden consists of a variety of garden beds and provides the Suquamish Elder’s Lunch Program with fresh fruits and vegetables.? This is where our Suquamish Gardens Summer Youth Interns and community members learn organic gardening.

Chief Kitsap Academy Garden was created by Suquamish students and former science teacher Bob Kirk as a learning garden.? In 2012, five raised beds were added by volunteers Don and Nancy McPherson, and the 2012 Summer Garden Interns.? This garden now provides fresh fruits and vegetables for the Suquamish Elders Lunch Program.

For more information or to volunteer please contact Julia Bennett-Gladstone atjgladstone@suquamish.nsn.us


13 Moons Garden at Swinomish

The 13 Moons Garden program is located at the Northwest Indian College’s Swinomish site on the Swinomish reservation in La Conner, WA.? Food and medicine plants are grown here with an emphasis on traditional, seasonal and local foods.? Funding for the garden and greenhouse were provided by the First Nation Development Institute, NWIC Science Department and the Learn and Serve program.? The garden is being planned and implemented by a Food Sovereignty Committee that consists of community members, tribal employees, NWIC faculty and staff and garden volunteers.

For more information visit the garden BLOG at:??http://13moonsgarden.wordpress.com/?or contact Jessica Gigot at?jgigot@nwic.edu.