Newsletter for xwc̓ic̓əsəm in the Indigenous Research Partnerships at UBC
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Indigenous Health Research & Education Garden Newsletter
October 2016

Reflecting on the transformations of the growing season

Updates from the growing season

above: Musqueam Elders Larry Grant & Shane Pointe at the garden's Naming Ceremony

We would like to acknowledge and express our heartfelt gratitude to the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nation for hosting us on their beautiful unceded territory. It is a privilege to announce that on October 3rd, 2016 the Indigenous, Health, Research & Education Garden at the UBC Farm recieved our name, xwc̓ic̓əsəm, which means "place of growing" in the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language. Our garden is a special place on unceded Musqueam territory where peoples of all nations come together to grow while building reciprocal relationships with the foods and medicines, a place of growing for people, plants and animals.  

In addition to receiving it's name, the garden has gone through many transformations this year. In March 2016, Hannah Lewis moved on from her role as the Garden Coordinator and Keisha Amanda Charnley joined our community to coordinate activities and take care of the garden.

above: Annah Mackay, Garden Collective member, with the garlic harvest

As well, a group of UBC Students enrolled in directed studies research courses formed the Garden Collective where each student contributed to the leadership of the garden alongside their individual and collaborative research projects. The Garden Collective met regularly throughout the growing season to draw connections between academic resources and land-based activities, build relationships, feast through community kitchens, lead volunteer sessions, and educate each other. 

The Medicine Collective has been leading incredible work in the garden as they share knowledge through medicine making workshops and school visits. We had many different groups visit us in the garden for land-based learnings including students from the UBC Midwifery program, MOA's Native Youth Program, and the Justice Institute of BC.

The Culturally Relevant Urban Wellness (CRUW) Program has been working with the land throughout the growing season and sharing teachings in beautiful workshops that have connected Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth to the Maya in Exile garden, teachings of tobacco, food security and so much more! 

It was a fruitful, transformative season full of new growth and relationships for students, educators, community members, and non-human relations! Don't forget to check out our website and Facebook page for regular updates, photos, volunteer opportunities and more.

above, clockwise: a student group visiting with the Medicine Collective at xwc̓ic̓əsəm, an eagle looking out over the UBC Farm, & a group of volunteers and UBC students celebrating the day at the garden 

CBC News: Pole Raising Ceremony at xwc̓ic̓əsəm

(Photo: Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"A new piece of artwork now graces an Indigenous garden at the University of British Columbia after a pole raising ceremony on Monday.

The 10-foot tall yellow cedar sculpture was carved by Algonquin artist David Robinson and its installation was one of three parts to the ceremony at the UBC Indigenous Health Research and Education Garden at UBC Farm on Monday afternoon" - Rafferty Baker, CBC News

from the CBC article "Pole raising ceremony adds new art to UBC Indigenous farm"
Read more


Getting Involved!

above: UBC First Nations & Indigenous Studies student, Heather, hanging out with the strawberries on a rainy afternoon       
Next Volunteer session:

Tuesday October 25th, 2016: 1pm - 3pm

How to volunteer for garden sessions: 

This autumn season, if you are interested in volunteering please email and we can set up a time to take care of the garden.

We work in the garden rain or shine, so come dressed for the weather. We have extra rai
n boots, gardening tools, and gloves to share. Bring a snack and water bottle - bring friends and family (of any age) too! No experience necessary. You will find us in the Indigenous Health Garden at the UBC Farm. The most up-to-date directions to the UBC Farm can be found here. Once at the Farm, you can follow the "Aboriginal Health Gardens" signs or follow this map to find our garden.

Note: if you plan to bring a large group, please let us know ahead of time at

Greetings from Keisha Charnley

Hello! My name is Keisha Amanda Charnley and I am from the Pierre Family of the Katzie First Nation and the Charnley Family of Blackburn, England. I have had the great privilege of carrying the role of Garden Coordinator this season. To me, this role has meant humbling myself to the infinite dimensions of knowledge that exist on the land and in our community. By this I mean, there is always more to learn! 

I first came to the UBC Farm in 2008 as a grade 10 student on a field trip and quickly discovered my love for the land through the teachings and stories shared with me by the Elders at the farm. At the farm, I volunteered and worked with xwc̓ic̓əsəm (known as the Institute for Aboriginal Health Garden back then), Tu'wusht Garden, and the CRUW program where I developed my skills and discovered my gifts before returning to xwc̓ic̓əsəm in 2016 as the Garden Coordinator.

It is because of the Elders and Knowledge Keepers at the Indigenous Initiatives, as well as the leaders in my own family, that I have felt empowered to pursue an education at UBC. I am currently in the final year of my degree in the Global Resource Systems Bachelor of Science program and have focussed my degree on learning about Indigenous health, particularly how the land and our identities shape our holistic ways of healing. It has been so meaningful for me to see the theories and teachings that I am learning about, in the classroom and in research, being practiced at xwc̓ic̓əsəm. 

I am grateful that my journey has come full circle.

Outside of my roles as a student at UBC and the Garden Coordinator with xwc̓ic̓əsəm, I am also a doula and a Founding Member of the ekw’í7tl Indigenous Doula Collective. This summer I saw the connection between my love for land-based work and birth work come to life. As I immersed myself in the xwc̓ic̓əsəm community, I saw my own patience, empathy, knowledge and strengths grow in ways that I knew would support me in my work as a doula, too. At the garden, I was constantly reminded of the ways that healing work is intimately tied to our relationships with the land.

It's been so wonderful to learn from everyone who has joined us in the garden this growing season, from children to students to Elders, I am humbled by all of the gifts that our community brings and the love for the land that we all share - hope to see you in the garden soon! 

hay ce:p


Message from Hannah Lewis

To the community of the Indigenous Health Research & Education Garden,

I wanted to make space to share a message of gratitude with you. From first starting in May of 2010, this spring of 2016 I have shifted out of my role as Coordinator of the garden and have taken a new role working in the field team at the Farm (not far away!). I leave the job with a light and happy heart seeing the programs and place flourish and grow, knowing the deep relationships and care all of you hold for it, and witnessing Keisha Charnley step into the role of Coordinator - someone I have known since I first joined the garden and whose approach and mindfulness I have learned so much from; she will benefit the garden and its programs in beautiful ways.

In my transition out of the role, I wanted to share some of my fond memories of these incredibly transformative and enriching past six years. Some of you may remember what I saw when I first joined the garden in the spring of 2010: a handful of straight rows in the middle of the hill, bordered by the Farm's perennial herbs, the Children's Programs' potatoes, and the personal garden of the Farm's caretakers. We grew an assortment of food plants that year and started to establish medicines with support from the incredible folks who would become the Medicine Collective: tobacco, kinnickinick, and comfrey were some of the first medicines we tended. Staff and students from the Institute for Aboriginal Health, our home at UBC, came out that summer to help us share food, ceremony, and help in the garden. The other Indigenous programs onsite were so generous welcoming me to the community and helped us learn how to work with the plants in a good way.

We grew the following year to 8 rows and then 18 the next year. Our growing harvest of food inspired the creation of the Feast Bowl community meal; I still remember the first Feast Bowl meal, a small group of IAH and First Nations House of Learning staff cooking and eating ratatouille together with garden-fresh zucchini. With more medicine plants being grown and harvested, the Medicine Collective began offering workshops to the public, bringing community together on the land to work with the medicines. I remember toddlers, elders, and UBC students laughing and working together to blend fragrant teas by the fire pit. We were excited to join a circle of partners to design and create the Culturally Relevant Urban Wellness (CRUW) youth program, which ran for the first time out of the garden in 2012. It felt like in the blink of an eye, the garden's community and reach grew exponentially; however, I know of course this was because of the strong communities already in place who joined together with the garden to create incredible programming and space for relationship-building.

In 2013 we worked with a UBC graduate student and members of the garden's community to create a beautiful new design that reflected the concepts that guided the work happening in (and out) of the garden space. With it came the growth of the garden to encompass the entire hill, and an ambitious spring spent with hard-working volunteers using yard tapes, stakes, strings and hand tools to build all 10,000 square feet of the design we now see today. Volunteers and student groups helped build the woodchip pathways, establish an expanded community of medicine plants, and start planting foods and herbs. In the three short years since, we have witnessed these plants fill in the space with a diversity of textures, colours and smells alongside the growing CRUW, Feast Bowl, and Medicine Collective programs. With the closure of the IAH we moved to our new home in the Indigenous Research Partnerships with good friends and close members of our community there welcoming us warmly.

Student interns joined us for the first time in 2014 and began to expand the circle of the garden's family of caretakers: people who sat with it through all seasons and all weather, spent time with all of its plants and creatures, and shaped it with their passion and love. They demonstrated just how the garden facilitates knowledge-sharing in the most beautiful ways, amongst all people who pass through it. Every week for eight months of the year we welcomed volunteers into the garden space; they gave their hands, their stories, their time and their good energy to touch each and every plant and care for this place that is so important to all of its programs. I have such deep gratitude for every volunteer who made the time over those years to work alongside us and help the garden grow so well.

I am immensely grateful to have been able to be in all of those places alongside all of you, these past six years; to have worked next to you with our hands in the soil pulling weeds and planting seeds; to have laughed and learned with the vibrant and sincere youth on sunny CRUW days around the fire pit; to have stood beside the incredible members of the Medicine Collective as they so generously share plant knowledge with excited community members; to have filled my plate with hearty meals in the Longhouse as people show up because they "smelled something so good!"; to have mentored and been mentored by each intern, sharing a love for learning and excitement about the future ahead.

I offer deep thanks to so many, but especially to Lee Brown and Eduardo Jovel, who have supported and help guide my work with the good intentions and love of this community that guides all that they do: at each opportunity to share in your teachings and ceremony, I am filled with gratitude and appreciation. I am so grateful to Jeff Schiffer and Murray Anderson, who brought such passion and open minds to the formation of CRUW: your gifts humble and inspire me in so many ways and I feel so proud of the complementary strengths we carried as a team that helped lay the foundations for such a successful program that will stay with youth for the rest of their lives. To Alannah Young, Jeri Sparrow, and Tonya Gomes: you have taught me a deeper loving and reciprocal relationship with plants that has moved me to tears more than once over the past years - thank you for your generosity in sharing your knowledge, and for the way you walk so respectfully on and with the land; you change lives every time you share your teachings, and you have absolutely changed mine. To Christine Wasiak and the extended family of the Longhouse: you opened your arms to us from day one and never saw anything but the potential for greater spiritual, physical, mental and emotional wellness when students, staff and faculty have the opportunity to engage with us through the Feast Bowl. Thank you. My deep gratitude goes out to the Tu'wusht Project, Maya in Exile Garden project, members of the Musqueam community, staff, faculty, and students in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems, all of the beautiful UBC Farm family, and each and every person who has come through the garden. 

I may not be there every day now, but in moments of celebration, challenge, or sadness, I know the garden is where I will go and where I will always find a home. 

With love and gratitude,

P.S. please stay in touch - you can still find me on the farm or reach out to me any time at!
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Indigenous Health Research and Education Garden
c/o Indigenous Research Partnerships
2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4,Canada
Phone: 604-822-5092 | Fax: 604-822-6839

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