Native American Garden project underway

Campus gathering space will reflect the area’s Indigenous history

January 23, 2023
Author: Imran Ghori
January 23, 2023

UC Riverside has begun work on a Native American Garden in the center of campus that pays respect to the region’s original inhabitants.

The garden is planned for a 20,000-square-foot area in the upper mall outside the Highland Union Building, or HUB, and next to the recently renovated Pierce Hall.

Preliminary work on the project began over the winter break with landscapers expected to start planting new trees and other vegetation in early February for a summer completion date, said Vilma Kern, project manager with the Office of Planning, Design and Construction.

Preliminary site work is underway on a planned Native American garden. (Imran Ghori/UCR)

The project has been in the works for a few years with an ad hoc committee that included campus leadership, staff, faculty, student, and Indigenous community representatives reviewing the concepts and designs.

“Everybody has been so looking forward to this project and getting it started,” Kern said.

The approved design was created by the Seattle architecture and landscape firm of Jones & Jones, which designed the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.

It will feature a variety of trees, plants, and vegetation native to the region and its tribes, such as chaparral, oak, sage scrub, palo verde and desert vegetation. 

The garden will include a circular gathering area that can be used for performance, distinctive planting areas, a shade structure, benches, and Indigenous art such as murals or a sculpture. With a gathering area that can hold up to 80 people and benches that seat 30 people, it’s expected to be a spot used for classes and activities.

“We’re going to have an area where we can welcome people to the university,” Kern said. “We can show them the Native arts, whether it be in dancing, performance, or a mural that we hang in the garden. It’s going to open so many doors as far as educating everybody about the Indigenous tribes in our beautiful county of Riverside.”