PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱ is an incredible nursery and garden program that means “Blossoming Place”, in SENĆOŦEN, the language of the W̱SÁNEĆ people. PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱ nursery and garden program grows native plants such as ELILE ( Salmon Berry) and ḰȽO,EL (Camas) for ecosystem restoration and traditional food projects throughout W̱SÁNEĆ territory. PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱ is located at the ȽÁU,WELṈEW̱ Tribal School, in Brentwood Bay, BC and they teach weekly workshops to the students from kindergarten-grade 11 about Indigenous foods, medicines, and stewardship. The program takes students as well as volunteers throughout W̱SÁNEĆ territory to participate in ecosystem restoration projects. 

PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱ is a truly special place where students learn essential life skills such as harvesting of traditional and medicinal food plants, environmental restoration, and SENĆOŦEN language. PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱ Foundation’s mission is provide participatory education opportunities about traditional and healthy food systems that contribute to the restoration and revitalization of native ecosystems in W̱SÁNEĆ territory. PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱ is a vital program for advancing food security and Indigenous food sovereignty across the W̱SÁNEĆ community and territory. 

Start now. Start small. Native plant gardens and restoration work take a long time to develop. Don’t be discouraged by the Barriers you’ll face because you will come across them. Look at the bigger picture of the work you’re doing. One day your program will be blossoming out too.

PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱ is a beautiful example of how Indigenous Food Sovereignty can be embedded within a Tribal School Program that incorporates an Indigenous language, and environmental and food systems restoration, while promoting land based healing and wellness. Ecosystem restoration and the development of local food systems provides immense benefits not only to the participants of the program but also for the planet. These are solutions for adapting to and mitigating the effects of a changing climate while creating long term, sustainable jobs for local communities and providing cultural reconnection opportunities. 

We met with PEPAḴIYE Ashley Cooper, PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱ Native Plant Nursery and Garden Program at the ȽÁWELṈEW̱ Tribal School and W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Secondary School to learn more about her work and PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱. Below is our conversation. 

Could you tell me a little bit about yourself? (Your role, any other details you’d like to share)

My name is PEPAḴIYE Ashley Cooper. I am from the village site W̱JOȽEȽP in W̱SÁNEĆ territory.

Can you tell me about the program at your school / the schools that you deliver? Could you tell me how traditional foods are incorporated into the school and programming?

The program at the ȽÁUWELṈEW̱ tribal school is called PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱ Garden Program (the blossoming place). We teach weekly workshops to the students from kindergarten-grade 11 about Indingeous foods, medicines, and stewardship.

What is the school’s population? 

300-400 students

What is your role with that program? Who are some other key team members?

 I am the Program Director.  My colleague Judith Lyn Arney is the Ecosystems Director. Sarah Jim is the Senior Crew for restoration. Earl Claxton Jr is the Elder. And Tracey Murphy is our workshop support.

Could you tell me about how this program came about? How did your community / school build up this program? What gave you the capacity to be able to do this? 

The native plant nursery started off from my colleague Judith’s masters thesis. She was growing native plants to add to restoration sites, and started a garden program for the students. Years later I came on board and helped with workshops and quickly apprenticed under Judith to learn how to run the program. Judith’s hard work to pave the way for the program, and a lot of grants helped us run our program.

I’m wondering if you could share any highlights of your program that you haven’t mentioned or something you’re particularly proud of?  What has been most rewarding?

I am very proud of the number of youth in my community who are dedicated to land stewardship and reclaiming their culture. Some of the student only recognize the processed medicine, but haven’t had a chance to build a relationship or recognize the plant in its flowering or growing stage, but now they are able to build relationship with the plant medicine during all of its life cycle. 

Why did you / your school leaders / your community focus on this program? What were your goals / what did you want to achieve?

It’s one of the firsts of its kind. To have a native plant garden that focuses on a majority of the eco systems, and to cultivate and grow native plants on the school site is really special. The principals and teaching staff have all been so invested in our program and the diversity it offers outside of the classroom. The students enjoy it as well.

What successes have you seen from this program (impacts on students, staff, the broader community)? 

The impact it has made on me has been life changing. With this role at work and in my community has really strengthened my ability to connect with my ancestors and step up to be the person I’m meant to be. We’ve seen a lot of students who have had “difficulties” inside the classroom who thrive in the garden and doing land-based learning. We’ve had a couple summer hires of youth we’ve worked with through the school program.

What would you say have been some key factors that led to this success?

Having the principal and teaching staff on board for supporting our program. The space that we have on school grounds has been wonderful.

What are some challenges you’ve run into? Have you been able to overcome them? If so, how?  

Always chasing grants for really important work can be challenging. The program decided to become a non profit society, and take charge of securing our funding. We’ve created partnerships with the school boards and the University of Victoria to help strengthen our program’s funding.

What did you learn from overcoming these challenges? 

To not second guess our role in the community; and how to reach out to people to collaborate on partnerships.

 If you could give some top tips to other schools or communities that would like to support vibrant food systems in their schools, what insights would you share?

Start now. Start small. Native plant gardens and restoration work take a long time to develop. Don’t be discouraged by the Barriers you’ll face because you will come across them. Look at the bigger picture of the work you’re doing. One day your program will be blossoming out too.

Do you have a favorite recipe that you would like to share?

Nettle pesto
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 heaping tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons grated cheese (any hard cheese will do)
1/2 to 2/3 cup blanched, chopped nettles
Equal parts fresh basil as the nettles
Salt to taste
Olive oil (use the good stuff)

Follow regular pesto recipe


PEPAḴIYE is a SENĆOŦEN language keeper from the village site of W̱JOȽEȽP and the Mowachat First Nation. PEPAḴIYE is the current Program Director for PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱ Native Plant Nursery and Garden Program at the ȽÁWELṈEW̱ Tribal School and W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Secondary School. She is also a team member of ȾIḴEL Living Lab and on the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council Environment Committee. PEPAḴIYE graduated in 2016 with a W̱,SENĆOŦEN,IST diploma in Indigenous Language Revitalization through the University of Victoria. 

PEPAḴIYE has been learning about W̱SÁNEĆ plants, their medicinal uses and healing properties, and their SENĆOŦEN names from local community knowledge keepers and elders and teaching children how to identify plant medicines and providing native plants for restoration sites in culturally significant areas within W̱SÁNEĆ territory.

 

 

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## ***workshop: december 12th!*****Until December 16th, the Government of Canada is seeking public input on school food programs and the most important objectives for a school food policy. **Join the **“Amplifying Our Voices”** Workshop to be held on Monday December 12, 2022 between noon and 1pm EST. Hosted by the Coalition for Healthy School Food, this interactive workshop will allow people to complete the form during the session or to complete it by their organization at a later time. **Register**[ **here](us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0sdOutpzwiH9OuFaH7ms-CQhRNvS5pNiB8).****To have your say on a national school food policy, visit the [consultation web page](www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/school-food/consultation-school-food.html), read the discussion paper and share your views by December 16, 2022. ****For more info: **www.farmtocafeteriacanada.ca/2022/11/have-your-say-on-building-a-national-school-food-policy/Coalition for Healthy School Food #farm2school #nationalschoolfoodpolicy #nationalschoolfoodprogram ... See MoreSee Less
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