The UBC’s Point Grey Campus is located on the traditional, ancestral, unceded territory of the Musqueam People. These lands have always been a place of learning for Musqueam youth, who were instructed in their culture, history, and tradition. The xʷc̓ic̓əsəm Garden (Indigenous Health Research and Education Garden) has been at the UBC Farm since 2007. It was first established under the UBC Institute for Aboriginal Health and now its managed by the Indigenous Research Partnerships (IRP), Faculty of Land and Food Systems, under the direction of Dr. Eduardo Jovel (Mayan-Pipil), along with the Medicine Collective—a group of Indigenous knowledge holders, and researchers who continue to support the transferring of Indigenous Land-based pedagogies for wholistic wellness.
In 2014 the xʷc̓ic̓əsəm Garden received a traditional name from Musqueam Indian Band. xʷc̓ic̓əsəm is pronounced phonetically as “Hw ‘ts i ‘ts u sum-”. The hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ word means “The place where we grow” and it provides a reassertion of xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Musqueam land-based protocols and principles informing land-based practices.
With an emphasis on teaching, learning, and research, it aims to serve educational and research needs related to Indigenous knowledge and its intersections with other ways of knowing. We are particularly focused on Indigenous food sovereignty, food security, and traditional plant knowledge, while increasing participants’ knowledge and access to both traditional and non-traditional plants/food uses. The garden is guided by the principle that ‘food is medicine’ and follows the research ethic framework of the “4R’s: respect, relevance, reciprocity, and responsibility” and a holistic understanding of health and healing. In addition to its international, community-based research and land-based teachings, the garden engages with numerous regional Aboriginal schools, communities, and organizations.
In terms of programming, the xʷc̓ic̓əsəm Garden hosts the Culturally Relevant Urban Wellness program, which brings urban Aboriginal and recent immigrant youth to the garden from March to October. The garden includes over 50 medicinal plants native to British Columbia and other regions around the world. These medicinal plants are used in medicine-making workshops over the Summer and Fall months by the Medicine Collective.
In the past the Garden hosted programs that include the Sharing our Wisdom: A Holistic Aboriginal Health Initiative, a research project focusing on understanding the effectiveness of traditional Aboriginal healing knowledge when addressing health inequities experienced by Aboriginal peoples. The Feast Bowl was a monthly community feast that brought together students, staff, faculty, and members of the public to cook and eat together.
The Garden offers four to six student internships each year that supports UBC students in gaining hands-on learning while gaining credit towards their degree.