Hiýáḿ Project

The Hiýáḿ Project is a collaboration with Satinflower Nurseries that facilitates thousands of seeds planted on Indigenous lands. Hiýáḿ translates to ‘return home.' We chose this name to signify what it means to welcome Indigenous plants onto the land and the ways that plants lead us home, to ourselves, to the land, and to our families.

Launched in 2021, the Hiýáḿ Project’s first iteration featured coastal mugwort seed packets distributed to Sḵwálwen customers in tandem with the Pauquachin, Scia'new, and Tsartlip communities on southern Vancouver Island.

On June 21st, 2022 (National Indigenous People’s Day), we launched the project’s Stinging Nettle (ts'exts'ix in Squamish) seed collaboration, with seed packets featuring artwork by WSANEC nation artist Sarah Jim. Stinging Nettle is a culturally important plant to Squamish and other Indigenous communities.

From June 21-30, customers who placed an order of $75 or more within Canada received a complementary Stinging Nettle seed packet for their home garden! With each order, we donate nettle seeds to partnering Indigenous communities.

The Ts'exts'ix Stinging Nettle Seed Packets are now available for purchase in our online shop here.

Our 2022 mainland partners include Squamish Nation Teen Centre,Totem Hall, Harmony Garden, ethnobotanist and educator Cease Wyss, and Cultural Journeys ~ a school for Indigenous learners.

Our Vancouver Island partners include Scia'new First Nation, PEPAKEN HAUTW, Victoria Native Friendship Centre, Tseycum and Pauquachin First Nations, NIL T'UO Child & Family Services, and the Coast Salish Plant Nursery; Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia.

Shop Skwalwen products here

If you receive a nettle seed packet with your order and wish to donate it instead of planting the seeds, consider seeking out Indigenous organizations in your area to enquire if they'd like the seeds! Or pass along to a gardening friend or family member interested in growing nettle.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) is a tall, rhizomatous perennial that is an important plant for people and also a host plant for several native butterflies.

Range: Throughout the Pacific Northwest, Stinging Nettle is found growing in abundance from Alaska, through British Columbia as far south as Oregon. 

Habitat: Found growing in rich, moist soil along streams, rivers, meadows and open forest, Stinging Nettle thrives in disturbed habitats such as village sites, roadsides and barnyards. It grows in full sun to part shade in a variety of moist habitats with rich soils. 

Parts of plant used: New spring shoots and leaves

Processing: The stinging hairs of nettle require processing ahead of ingestion. The stinging properties are neutralized by steaming, drying, freezing, blending or heating up in oil or blanching water. 

This is young nettle starting from seed:

And mature nettle:

Benefits of Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle is rich in chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals, protein, and amino acids. It is considered a super food and a very nutritious spring green. The plant has antihistamine properties that help with seasonal allergies when taken as a tea. When utilized topically, either fresh or dried and infused into oil or tea, the plant carries anti-inflammatory properties that can help with sore muscles and joints. Stinging Nettle is highly antioxidant, making it a nutritious food to consume to support overall immunity and health. It's also also an incredible source of fiber to make strong cordage and the plant can be used to create a green dye. 

Stinging Nettle is a very important butterfly plant throughout its range. Many species of butterfly require Stinging Nettle as food for their caterpillars. Butterflies lay their eggs on nettle leaves throughout the spring and summer. When the eggs hatch, the young caterpillars eat the leaves, and then form a chrysalis to mature into adult butterflies. 

Butterfly species that depend on nettle include the Satyr Anglewing...

Milbert's tortoiseshell...

and West Coast lady. 

Sustainable Harvest

Each year around late March through to mid-May is ts’exts’ix (Stinging Nettle)  harvesting time in Squamish. It is best harvested for eating when the young shoots are less than 1 ft (30.5 cm) tall and still have a purple tinge to the leaves, as they are at their most tender. Nettles are very easy to grow in a garden, which is the most sustainable way to harvest this wonderful plant. The stems are gathered for fiber in September. Along with native butterflies depending on nettle to lay their eggs on the leaves, birds enjoy the seeds of Nettle each fall. As a result, it is important to remember to leave enough of the plant for other non-human life. 

*** Warning: Do not harvest nettles for food or tea once they have flowered as they develop gritty particles called cystoliths that can irritate the urinary tract.

What you need to harvest ts’exts’ix: Gloves, scissors or clippers, basket or cloth bag

Learn more about the spring harvest of Stinging Nettle from Skwalwen founder and ethnobotanist Leigh Joseph here.

How to Grow Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle should be planted in fall and can be directly sown by seed onto bare soil in your garden or into containers. Nettle is rhizomatous, meaning it spreads below ground by underground stems. If you don't want it to spread, plant in a container, raised bed, or space bordered by a natural barrier. Stinging Nettle prefers rich soils, so try adding compost or manure to the container. Once mature, Stinging Nettle can be easily divided and moved or shared with others. Early spring is a good time to make divisions.