The Squaxin Island Tribal Garden is passing down traditional medicinal knowledge through a series of classes for the tribal community.
On a recent weeknight, two dozen community members learned how to use trees for medicine in the winter. In addition to a short discussion on the various uses of trees, the attendees made a chest rub and a cedar oat bath infused with tree ingredients.
“We want to make sure that this information will be shared, so that we are passing this on to future generations so for our children this is the first resource they turn to,” said Aleta Poste, the tribe’s garden coordinator.
The Squaxin Island Tribal Garden Program was began in January 2016, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held after a few months of planning.
The origins of the garden came from connections made during the 2014 Tribal Journey to Bella Bella. Through a trade facilitated by a Lummi Nation community member and the Kwakiutl First Nation in Fort Rupert, British Columbia the individual Squaxin Tribal members were able to acquire camas bulbs. These camas bulbs were then planted in the Squaxin territory, at the campground of the 2012: Paddle to Squaxin Tribal Journey.
Camas is a traditional tribal food that grows in prairies. Traditional land management by tribes include slash burning of prairies to preserve open space for camas by eliminating competition between tree saplings.
Unfortunately, soil analysis at the former campground meant that they had to find another spot for a larger garden program. The program was established at former horse farm the tribe owns in the Kamilche valley, near Skookum Creek. “We’re lucky to have this beautiful space that is right in the middle of the garden,” Poste said.
The program includes a garden that provides food to the elders lunch program, as well as a traditional plants garden, an orchard and a facility for classes.
The garden project conducts the traditional food and medicine classes with staff from the tribal museum. “The museum has really sustained a lot of these classes, so we wanted to partner up with them and really make this a community effort,” Poste said.