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Solutions Generator spotlight: Cully Tribal Gathering Garden
Author: Christina Williams, Institute for Sustainable Solutions
Posted: March 11, 2013

A reclaimed brownfield site in Northeast Portland will become the site of Cully Park, an ambitious undertaking by the Cully neighborhood and burgeoning EcoDistrict to develop a 25-acre green space.

Part of that site, a 20,000 square-foot space, will be developed as the Cully Tribal Gathering Garden, a congregation place and space to cultivate indigenous foods and plants to strengthen tribal cultural traditions.

A group of students working with Native American studies professor Judy BlueHorse Skelton hosted a gathering last week to highlight the project, update community members on its progress and start a conversation about how students and others who are interested can get involved.

Supported by the Institute for Sustainable Solutions 2013 Solutions Generator program, students will plan and host another event in April.

The 2013 Solutions Generator program funded 14 student groups to promote ideas to make the campus of PSU and the community of Portland more sustainable. The Solutions Generator program is in its fourth year.

The goal of the Cully Tribal Garden project is to bring more exposure to indigenous perspectives on sustainability and create more opportunities for PSU students to engage with the Tribal Garden project.

“How can we gather together in an urban setting and reclaim the land beneath the asphalt?”

Skelton posed the question to the audience of students, faculty and community members as a way of introducing the concept of a tribal garden, which will focus on planting culturally significant plants, improving wildlife habitat and provide a gathering space—literally. While other Portland Parks & Recreation parks explicitly forbid foraging of plants, the Tribal Garden will allow harvesting of plants cultivated for traditional uses.

Skelton and David E. Hall, adjunct professor of systems science and psychology, both used the phrase “re-indigenizing the urban landscape”—an underlying theme and goal of the garden.

Cary Watters, an urban planning master’s student at PSU and a member of the Solutions Generator team, said the March open house was a success.

“This was an opportunity to showcase a model of cultural resource stewardship at this particular garden, which can hopefully be applied in other places,” Watters said. “The ultimate goal is to honor and bring attention to the local tribes that have lived here since time immemorial, and for the urban Indian community to come together toward a common cause of sharing of diverse cultural traditions and making the invisible visible. This event brought together community partners and informed many that had not yet heard about the project.”