Hiýáḿ Project 2024

The Hiýáḿ Project is a collaboration with Satinflower Nurseries that facilitates thousands of seeds planted on Indigenous lands.

Hiýáḿ translates to ‘return home.' This name signifies 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.

For our 4th annual Hiýáḿ Project, we're helping to contribute x̱ach’t seeds to Indigenous communities. X̱ach’t is the Squamish name for fireweed. It's one of the first plants to come back after a fire, reminding us of resilience and rebirth. 

Starting June 21st ~ Indigenous People's Day ~ Sḵwálwen orders of $60+ shipping within Canada will receive a gift of a fireweed seed packets while supplies last. For every seed packet sent to a customer, we'll donate one to an Indigenous community partner on your behalf, helping fireweed grow in abundance on Indigenous lands.

The seed packet features an illustration of x̱ach’t / fireweed by Sarah Jim, an artist from the village of Tseycum in W̱SÁNEĆ. It's a beautiful representation of this special plant. Instructions for planting are on the reverse side.

Huy chexw a / Thank You to Our Supporting Businesses

SATINFLOWER NURSERIES: This native plant nursery provides native plants, seeds, and expertise from their two locations on Southern Vancouver Island. As our key collaborator for the Hiýáḿ Project, Satinflower Nurseries gifts seed packets to Indigenous communities each year during Indigenous History Month. Their 2024 community partners include Malahat Nation, Evelyn Vandermaas of Sci'anew, Stewards of Sc'ianew, Mavis Underwood of STAUTW, PEPAKEṈ HÁUTW̱, NIȽ TU,O Child and Family Services Society, Aunty Collective, Hulitan Family and Community Services Society, and Wild About Plants.

SUPPORTED SOUL: The Resurgence Collection of yoga mats invites Indigenous cultural context and representation into spaces where we connect to ourselves through yoga, movement, and breath. Designed by Coast Salish artist Ocean Hyland/ shḵwen̓/ ts;simtelot in collaboration with Sḵwálwen. 12% of mat sales are donated to The Hiýám Project.

NECTAR YOGA RETREAT: For our 4th annual Hiýáḿ Project, we’re also collaborating with Nectar Yoga Retreat on Nexwlélexwm (Bowen Island). For every new Nectar Experience Stay booked between June 21st and September 30th 2024, Nectar will donate 10% of the total booking sales to Skwálwen and the Hiýáḿ Project. This collaboration aims to make a meaningful impact by supporting Skwálwen's commitment to indigeneity, sustainability, and culture.

About X̱ach’t / Fireweed

HABITAT & SUSTAINABLE HARVESTING: X̱ach’t is a pernnial herb that grows in thickets, meadows, open forests, recent forest fire sites, roadsides, and clearings. It's abundant throughout BC and its range extends north to Alaska, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories, then south to California and across North America to the east coast. It is globally circumboreal.

When it is ready, x̱ach’t can sustain a fair amount of harvesting at various stages, based on what use you are harvesting it for. In early spring, the new shoots of x̱ach’t appear and are best harvested when they are still red and flexible. The edible leaves can be harvested throughout the growing season until they go to seed. The mature stems can be harvested in the fall, and the inner fibers of the stem processed to make a twine.

PLANT GIFTS: X̱ach’t is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiseptic, and can be taken as a tea or infused into honey. It can also be applied topically as an infused oil or toner. The plant is astringent and helps to reduce redness. An oil infusion be added to salves; if you are using a water-based recipe, an alcohol or witch-hazel infusion can be used instead. The tea can act as a mild laxative but has been used for a long time to treat digestive upsets. The shoots can be likened in taste to wild asparagus and are rich in vitamins A and C.

In older times, the feathery seeds were incorporated into mountain goat wool to bulk it up. They were also woven into traditional Coast Salish blankets that carried rich meaning and information about one's family, village, and stature.

Our 2023 Hiýáḿ Project Plant: K’exmin / Bare-stem Parsley

HABITAT: The lacy foliage and yellow flowers of k’exmin have a special beauty. This species thrives in a wide range of habitats, from dry, open, rocky or grassy slopes, and dunes, to seasonally moist meadows and open forests. 

K’exmin often grows in traditionally managed camas meadow ecosystems and its presence in these meadows is concentrated on Vancouver Island, Guld and San Juan Islands, Puget Sound, and Willamette Valley.

The growing range generally extends from southern BC to California, east to southwestern Alberta, and south to the Great Basin regions in Oregon, Nevada, and Utah.

GROWING & TIMING: As k’exmin is a culturally important plant food and medicine that is difficult to find and harvest due to habitat loss, it's important that you do not wild harvest this plant. If you live in an area where the plant holds cultural importance, a wonderful offering is to grow it in your garden and offer to grow extra for the local Indigenous community. Leaves can be harvested in spring, and seeds are ready in the late summer/fall. 

PLANT GIFTS: K’exmin leaves are celery-flavoured, rich in vitamin C, and can be eaten fresh or used to season cooking. The seeds have a multitude of uses, including treating sore throats, coughs and headaches, as well as being burned as an incense for cleansing spaces. This plant is connected to many ceremonial and spiritual practices for Indigenous Peoples.

Past Hiýáḿ Projects

In 2021 and 2022 respectively, in partnership with Satinflower Nurseries, we donated Coastal Mugwort and Stinging Nettle and seeds to our partnering Indigenous communities.

Our mainland partners have included 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 have included 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.

About Ts'exts'ix (Stinging 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 THE PLANTS 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. 

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. 

Beneficial to Butterflies

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.

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. 

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’ixGloves, scissors or clippers, basket or cloth bag

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