Native American Garden

Native American garden opens to campus

The gathering spot features Indigenous trees and plants

September 27, 2023
Author: Imran Ghori
September 27, 2023

UC Riverside’s new Native American Landscape Garden is now open at the center of campus.

Campus leaders and others involved in its planning celebrated the project’s completion with a walk-through of the 20,000-square-foot garden on Friday, Sept. 22, which also happened to be California Native American Day.

The committee members, which included staff, faculty, student, and Indigenous representatives, were joined by Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Elizabeth Watkins and Vice Chancellor Gerry Bomotti for the tour.

The garden features 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 that were planted over the spring and summer.

It includes a circular gathering area that can be used for performances and classes — with benches that can be lit at night. The area includes an electrical and sound system for events. The lighting and low voltage was contributed by the Highlander Union Building department.

Clifford Trafzer, a distinguished professor in UCR’s history department and the Rupert Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs, was one of the members of the ad-hoc committee. He said seeing the finished garden was even better than he had imagined.

“This is just lovely and it’s an amazing statement from UC Riverside that we are here in a Native space,” he said.

Trafzer said he was impressed with the use of sage, a sacred plant that can be hard to grow, and touches like the sand circle in the center, allowing for ceremonies where participants can be barefoot.

Campus Architect Jacqueline Norman said the location in the center of campus makes it a prominent part of the campus landscape.

“It gives a new level of importance and beauty to the HUB mall,” she said.

Vilma Kern, project manager with the Office of Planning, Design and Construction, said a few more plants are being bred by the Riverside Corona Resource Conservation District until ready for planting in the coming months. A mural featuring Native American themes created by Los Angeles artist River Garza will be installed soon. She noted as the trees and plants grow, the garden will stand out even more to the campus.

Joshua Gonzales, director of Native American Student Programs and a member of the committee, said he’s looking forward to hosting events at the garden.

“This opens up an opportunity for folks to learn a little more about the region’s Indigenous history,” he said.