Jaz Whitford, Kamala Todd, and students in the URB 413-613 Storyscapes class

Graduate students

SFU Urban Studies class visits Indigenous public garden

March 19, 2024

On March 13th, 2024, SFU Urban Studies instructor Kamala Todd and her URB 413-613 Storyscapes class visited x̱aw̓s shew̓áy̓ New Growth at Semi-Public. Located at 271 Union Street in Vancouver, what was once a vacant lot is now an urban forest with flora Indigenous to the area. T’uy’t’tanat Cease Wyss, an artist and ethnobotanist, led a group of Indigenous youth to originally create the space in 2019.

Jaz Whitford
Jaz Whitford shares information about the plants with students in the URB 413-613 class.

Jaz Whitford, who maintains the garden for the non-profit 221A, showed the SFU Urban Studies class the medicinal and edible plants. Rosehips, blueberries, strawberries, plums, and much more grow in the 3,000-foot lot, which is arranged as a series of interlocking trigons, crescents, extended crescents, and circles— traditional Coast Salish design elements.

Whitford faces many challenges in helping the garden to thrive. The biggest challenge is climate change. Whitford finds the soil dry and says that even the most drought-tolerant plants require constant watering. Vermin also defecate and urinate on the soil, changing its character and ability to absorb moisture. They constantly gnaw on important pieces of equipment like garden hoses, too. Through it all, though, Whitford is delighted that the plants continue to grow in these difficult conditions. Birds like eagles and hawks visit the garden, as well. Thus, Whitford has gained a wildlife designation for the space.

An outdoor oven is currently under construction, and the plan is to cook and serve food in the garden soon. The space will be open to the public in a matter of weeks and all will be welcome. For more information, visit their website.

x̱aw̓s shew̓áy̓ New Growth at Semi-Public