Native American Garden

Campus celebrates Native American Garden

First large gathering features song and dance

April 16, 2024
Author: Imran Ghori
April 16, 2024

UC Riverside’s Native American community celebrated the new Native American Garden on campus with music and dance in the first large gathering in the space since the project opened.

The grand opening celebration on Tuesday, April 9, featured the Mountain Cahuilla Bird Singers, who danced and sang in the sand circle at the center of the garden to a large crowd gathered around them. The event was sponsored by Native American Student Programs.

The 20,000-square-foot garden, located in the upper mall outside the Highlander Union Building, features a variety of trees, plants, and vegetation native to the region and its tribes – the Cahuilla, Tongva, Luiseño, and Serrano peoples. The project was planned with a working group that included campus leadership, students, staff, faculty, and Indigenous community representatives.

“To have this garden in this very central location on campus is important,” said Wallace Cleaves, associate dean and director of the University Writing Program.

He and other speakers said the garden serves as not only a gathering place but also provides an opportunity to highlight the region’s Indigenous history and the responsibility of institutions like UCR in honoring that tradition.

Gerald Clarke, Jr., a professor of ethnic studies and special advisor to the chancellor on Native American affairs, described it as a “living classroom.” He and others said they look forward to more gatherings at the garden.

“A community that sings and dances together is a healing community,” Clarke said.

Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox noted how a respect for places is an important part of Indigenous traditions.

“We hope this Native American Garden shares that respect for place,” he said.

The garden opened to the campus last fall with many of the plants now blooming in spring. A final piece of the project, a mural by River Garza, a Los Angeles-based Native American artist, was installed last month. Garza said the tradition of basketweaving inspired his design.