Tribal Gardens

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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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.

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