Tsawout First Nation

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By Shauna Johnson

Hi everyone! It has been awhile since I updated you and a few changes have been made. As of April 1, 2013, I am working full time for the Lands department. This is an exciting switch, although I am sad to leave such a great Health team. The Health department experience was extremely valuable and while I learned a lot, I think it is a better fit given my background education in environmental technology and sciences. I am hopeful that in the future I can have a partner to work with me and hopefully be mentored. Since Environmental and Sustainability are a part of every department, I know that I will still continue to work with the health department and other departments.

The Rethink your Waste community event was just the start to a wonderful initiative for Tsawout. I know that most people think that recycling is all we can do reduce our waste and lessen our impact on earth, but there is really so much more! The "Rethink your Waste" event opened the door to alternative ways in dealing with our waste, especially for the Tsawout Public Works department, who is in charge of dealing with the large garbage items that are picked up from Tsawout residents. The normal practice was to think of everything, as waste and destined for the landfill. However, after just one day of collecting the daily large garbage items, sorting them into categories such as wood waste, oversize plastics, metals, baby car seats and other items, we reduced our waste by probably 80%!!! WOW, talk about saving money and helping the environment! SO I commend the Public Works department staff here at Tsawout for having an open mind to alternative ways of thinking about waste. It is because of the work that was done on the “Rethink your Waste” event that we were able to demonstrate how reducing waste can save Tsawout money and time. We are now moving forward on a new path for dealing with waste and becoming more sustainable!

Tsawout Memorial Community Garden

First, I wanted to make something clear, as there has been some talk about the garden being just for the benefit of a few people. The community garden was set up for all Tsawout community members who are interested in participating and learning about gardening and growing modern and traditional food plants. If you are interested in taking part in some of the garden workshops or having a garden plot of your own to grow some healthy nutritious foods, you are welcome to sign up by contacting me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or (250) 652-1149 ext 203.

We named the garden the Tsawout memorial garden to honour all the ancestors that have passed. We hope that as the garden continues to grow, it can be a place where we can remember our teachings from our elders and knowledge holders and connect ourselves back to the land in a good way. We hope that the garden will be a place where all can come and join, even if you do not want to garden, but perhaps you need a quiet place to sit in a beautiful environment.

With spring here, we are so excited for the upcoming growing season because things are beginning to bloom! We have had several workshops now about food security, planning your garden and we have another one about container gardening in May (I have attached the garden workshop schedule).

 I would like to set up another garden planning meeting with the community so that we can talk about what the plans are for the garden. If you are interested in taking part of the garden planning process, please contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or (250) 652-1149 ext 203.

We have received some more funding that focuses on engaging elders and youth together so that we can help bridge cultural gaps and share traditional knowledge about indigenous foods and plants. We will be developing our own educational materials with the input of elders and knowledge keepers in the community. The fund is also to help make the garden more accessible and to help provide a safe and comfortable environment (benches, boardwalks etc). Therefore, our efforts will be focused on implementing this stage of the garden project.

In the future, we hope to gain more funds for continuing with our long term goals:

1. To establish an orchard with beekeeping and possibly honey making.
2. Once we have a strong educational program going with a high level of participation from community members, then we can look at setting up garden plots in the backyard of individual homes. Ongoing mentorship will be provided for this.
3. Establishment of a greenhouse.

TIXEN – Volunteer Days

We have had a very successful season for the TIXEN Volunteer days. Here is a little bit of background information about the work we have been doing and the reason we need to protect this special place.

TIXEN  is a rare local example of a sand dune habitat located on Cordova Spit, or TIXEN.  Studies by ethnobotanists and bird biologists have shown that it is home to a number of endangered shoreline plants and marine birds.  It has been declared a sanctuary and closed to vehicle traffic.  However, just as great a threat to its ecology are the extensive thickets of invasive plant species such as Scotch broom, gorse and Himalayan blackberries.  These invasive plants outcompete our native species for water, sunlight and nutrients.  
The Tsawout Lands Department has undertaken a program to eradicate the invasive plants and give the native plants and medicines an opportunity to restore itself naturally. Work parties have been held every second Saturday (see Schedule).  Initially, we will concentrate on lopping and sawing down the thickets.  Later we will start digging up the blackberry crown roots and pulling up any new plants which may have grown.  With access to water and sunlight, the native plants will start to thrive and even long-dormant seeds of native plants will come to life.  We will see TIXEN once again become a place of beauty and wonder.
We welcome individual volunteers who wish to join us in this rewarding task as well as work parties organized by community groups.  There can never be too many of us out on the spit.

One of the traditional medicinal plants we are trying to protect is called Indian Consumption plant (Lomatium nudicaule ). This plant has been used by the Coast Salish people for many, many years. It can be used to combat colds and sore throats. There are also other plants and insects that are endangered. There is the Yellow Sand Verbena plant and the endangered Yellow Sand Verbena Moth, which relies on the yellow sand verbena plant for most of its lifecycle. Please see the attached fact sheet for photos and identification of these.

We also encourage Tsawout community members to take your own action on protecting the special habitats at TIXEN. Help spread the word about the work that the Tsawout Lands have been doing, or come on down to one of the TIXEN volunteer days. Please see the attached fact sheet on more that you can do to protect and conserve TIXEN. As stewards of our lands, we need to show leadership in sustainability for places such as TIXEN.

TIXEN Volunteer Days – April 13,2013

I wanted to share a little bit about the amazing amount of work that has been done so far, especially on April 13, 2013, when we had an amazing turn out! Social coast (www.socialcoast.org/about) organized a very large group of volunteers to come out and participate in broom pulling and they all piled into their “action bus” and joined us in a pit cook as well. We also had a group of boy scouts that came out and they were able to learn about TIXEN with the help of John Bradley Williams, who shared stories and some traditional knowledge with everyone! It was a beautiful day and we accomplished a LOT!

I want to acknowledge all the efforts that Judith Arney and Earl Claxton Jr, as well as all the volunteers that have come from so many places to help us in this initiative. We have had staff from the Capital Regional District (CRD), University of Victoria students (in the Environmental Studies Program and the Restoration program), local naturalists such as Bryce Giloroy-Scott and Denis Coupland, and so many others! I just wanted to say thank you for all the hard work you have done as we could not have done it without you!