The Native American Contemplative Garden, dedicated to the Patwin Indians, was unveiled last Saturday at the UC Davis Arboretum.
Located on the bank of the Putah Creek channel, the garden is part of a larger campus project to honor the land’s original inhabitants and to educate the UC Davis community about them. The garden contains 34 different types of plants, many of which were used by the Patwin people for food, medicine and craft.
The garden also includes basalt columns that are intended to represent the strength and resilience of the Patwin. The columns are surrounded by a curving path meant to be symbolic of the flowing creek and the flow of time.
“I think the fact that the university took the initiative to plant and dedicate a Patwin garden shows huge improvements [with] the way Native people [are] viewed,” said April Negrette, a Shoshone and Paiute descendent and third year wildlife, fish and conservation biology major with a minor in Native American studies. “It should be happening at every school across the country.”
The Patwin are a Wintun people native to Northern California whose villages spanned creeks from Putah Creek all the way to San Francisco Bay. Weakened by disease and forced off their lands by settlers, the Patwin were the original inhabitants of the land the UC Davis campus rests on.
The garden dedication is the first stage of a plan to make 10 markers throughout campus as part of the UC Davis Arboretum’s plan to incorporate art within the environment. The 10 markers will present a walking tour intended to tell the history of the Patwin.
Among those who attended the ceremony were Patwin Elder Bill Wright, Charlie Wright, tribal chair of the Cortina Rancheria, and UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi.
“[This] shows how far we’ve come with issues of diversity and Native rights,” said Negrette. “[It also] reminds us still of how far we have to go.”
– Kyle Sporleder