na’ʔk’ʷulamən garden

Story poles visible in Kelowna's na’ʔk’ʷulamən garden.

The Indigenous garden at Kelowna campus

Okanagan College's Kelowna campus is home to a traditional garden established in 2017 to celebrate and recognize the rich history and knowledge of the Indigenous people of the region.

The name na'ʔk'ʷulamən generally translates to "the things that we do." This reflects things that Indigenous people do with plants and the land, including maintenance of the land; selection and use of plants for food, technology, medicines and for ceremonial purposes; and the sharing of this knowledge with those who walk the paths of this garden or access the garden website.

Situated just north of the Centre for Learning building, the garden is located in a climatically appropriate, visible and accessible area of the campus. The garden is approximately 6,000 square feet and contains over 50 different types of plants that are used and of significance to the region's First Nations. Garden design and plant selection was based on necessary research and advice from Westbank First Nation and other appropriate groups such as the Central Okanagan Naturalists' Club. The garden is a teaching and learning site for students, campus, Indigenous community and public, and serves as a model for other similar gardens in the community.


First Nations people were ecologists before the term was ever coined. Over time they acquired an intimate knowledge of nature, knowing exactly where in its natural habitat to find a particular plant to meet a specific need. The project pays tribute to this relationship between the First Nations and the plant world in a traditional garden.

The vision for this garden is to create a learning and teaching space on the campus where First Nations people can share their historical knowledge and uses of local plants. One of the garden's founding principles is to preserve local knowledge of the uses and value of the region's plants, in order to ensure current and future generations will understand the past and can transfer that knowledge and appreciation into the future.

Plant varietals

The College and Westbank First Nation chose plants for the na'ʔk'ʷulamən garden that are local to the region and of significance to its indigenous community. The two "plant chiefs" of the Westbank First Nation can be found in the garden:

  • sp‘iƛ̓əm Chief bitterroot: the chief for things under the ground.
  • síyaʔ Chief Saskatoon Berry: the chief for things above the ground.

The other plants selected were chosen for their important uses. In addition, plants were strategically selected that would provide year-round garden interest and are drought-resistant.

Some of the varietals include:

  • Grasses: styiʔ (blue bunch wheatgrass), sxsíst‘iyaʔ (sweetgrass)
  • Shrubs: ṕukwiʔiɬp (wolf willow), mets‘mets‘íʔɬp (ocean spray), sx̌ ʷsmiɬp (Soopalallie, aka bearberry or buffalo berry), síyaʔ (Saskatoon), cq‘ʷas‘q‘lstn (big sagebrush), tq́ʷq́ʷyqwáʕýs (black current), stkcxʷiɬp (red osier dogwood), kʷ‘lítk‘iʔɬp (red-stemmed ceanothus), tḿtm‘nýʔip (snowberry), tm‘tm‘nýʔiɬp (snowbrush), stsərsiɬmix (Oregan grape), plplqniɬmix (thimbleberry), skʷkʷĺkʷísíɬmĺx (falsebox).
  • Perennials: smúkʷaʔxn (arrow-leaved balsamroot), sp‘iƛ̓ əm (bitterroot), mitl‘mn (brown-eyed Susan), səw‘numtaʔx (golden aster), skʷəlsiɬməlx (kinnickinnick), x̌elíwa (nodding onion), aʔp‘ənwixʷtn (creamy parsnip-flowered buckwheat), tsəmtsəmɬk̓íxʷ (pearly everlasting), sxʷinaʔ (prickly pear cactus), yititemníɬp (round-leaved alumroot, aka Cora bells), sknirmən (sagebrush buttercup), ntsástsestsn (showy aster), nt́t́qt́qikńxn (shrubby penstemon), táqʷaʔ (sticky geranium), kʷətskʷətswixʷups (common white yarrow, aka goatsbeard), k‘ixán (false Solomon's seal), sp‘its‘n (hemp dogbane), ky‘ir‘y‘ir‘mn‘tsút (orange honeysuckle), smətsnáleḱʷ (desert parsley, aka wild carrot grown from seed), tq‘imtq‘m (wild strawberry), kʷilkʷíl (Indian paint brush), skʷnkʷín‘m (Indian potato), x̌ ʷux̌ tiɬp (Indian celery), sxsístyaʔ (pink pussytoes), smańxʷ (Indian tobacco).

Download the Plant Guide to learn about the historical significance of many plants growing in na'ʔk'ʷulamən garden.

Story poles

On July 13, 2017, two story poles featuring ancestral and original pictograph symbols by artist Les Louis of the Lower Similkameen Band were installed in the na'ʔk'ʷulamən garden. The story poles depict plants, animals and other imagery significant to the Indigenous peoples of the region.

Sponsors, partners and contributors

The na'ʔk'ʷulamən garden is pleased to recognize the following garden sponsors for direct and in-kind support to establish the garden:

Thank you to the following garden partners who worked with Okanagan College to create the na'ʔk'ʷulamən garden:

Okanagan College also recognizes the work of Garden Task Force individuals instrumental in establishing the garden: Beryl Amaron, Grouse Barnes, Pamela Barnes, Jordan Coble, Rick Gee, Anthony Isaac, Graham Kershaw, Angie March, Heather Schneider, Rob St. Onge and Elana Wester. Thanks also goes to the many volunteers who harvested local plant species, planted the beds, watered the garden and maintain it on an ongoing basis.


Published By College Relations on April 15, 2020

Indigenous Services

As a part of Okanagan College's commitment to enhancing the participation of Indigenous learners, the College provides Indigenous support services at each of the four campuses.

Our goal is to provide culturally relevant support including:

  • Visiting Elders
  • Cultural and academic workshops
  • Indigenous peer mentors
  • Indigenous Student Centres
  • Indigenous awards, scholarships and bursary information
  • Assistance with band funding applications
  • Providing personalized daily supports
  • Computer access

Visit Indigenous Services

Indigenization at OC

Okanagan College leadership and broader College community are committed to working with, and learning from, the Indigenous community.

Okanagan College created the Indigenization Task Force to gather input on the direction towards our Indigenization planning and activities. The task force consists of faculty and staff from various departments and all campuses.

Learn more about Indigenization