Sḵwálwen: The Story Behind the Name

By Leigh Joseph

What’s in a name?

From day one of envisioning this business, I wanted it to have a name that would capture the essence of what this journey means to me, and what motivates me to pursue the challenging and fulfilling path of being an entrepreneur.

I also recognized early on that this business is rooted in my personal experiences connected to cultural resurgence and healing, and for these reasons, it would be powerful to have a Squamish name for the business. But not being a Squamish language speaker felt like a barrier.

Our Squamish language has been impacted almost to the point of extinction. The targeted attacks on our language (along with all other aspects of our culture) throughout colonial history have led to many people, myself included, being left to pick up the breadcrumbs—a word here, another there—in order to reconnect with it.

One thing I’ve realized as part of my very early learning about our language is that so much meaning and specific information is embedded in each word. For me this is exciting and grounding all at once. To know that word by word one can unlock the ancestral secrets of one’s homeland and, at the same time, learn so much practical information about that place, is wonderful. This brings me to the decision to re-name my business.

Throughout naming process I engaged with many Squamish words, considered their meaning, and envisioned the places associated with these names. But one word kept surfacing for me: sḵwálwen (squall-win). There isn’t a direct translation to English, but my understanding is that the closest meaning is “essence of being” or “spiritual heart.” These two meanings speak deeply to what I hope to convey through my brand to the world and also to my personal experience in running this business.

Leigh - Skwálwen Botanicals

The foundation of Sḵwálwen is connection to place and culture through plants. This parallels my personal journey. For me the word sḵwálwen carries a depth of meaning that captures my heart, mind and spirit. Further grounding the business culturally honours both my journey and the plant knowledge that I incorporate into my spiritual preparation, harvesting, processing and creative recipe development.

Thank you all for taking the time to hear my story and for supporting Indigenous small business.

Huy chexw a / Thank you,