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UC Riverside unveils Native American landscape garden

The new garden features regional plants and a gathering space, aiming to celebrate and educate about the area’s Indigenous history.

A group that were part of an ad hoc committee that helped plan the Native American Garden visit the site on September 22, 2023. (Stan Lim/UCR)

On September 22, 2023, UC Riverside officially opened its new 20,000-square-foot Native American Landscape Garden, an area dedicated to the region’s Indigenous flora and traditions. The inauguration coincided with California Native American Day and included a walk-through led by campus administrators and the planning committee.

Located at the heart of the UC Riverside campus, the garden is populated with regional native plants and trees such as chaparral, oak, sage scrub, palo verde, and desert vegetation. The garden’s design includes a circular gathering area surrounded by benches, lighting, and a sound system for hosting performances and classes.

Clifford Trafzer, a distinguished professor in UCR’s history department and the Rupert Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs, was part of the planning committee. “This is just lovely and it’s an amazing statement from UC Riverside that we are here in a Native space,” Trafzer commented. He also praised the inclusion of sage—a plant considered sacred by Indigenous cultures—and a sand circle at the garden’s center, which allows for barefoot ceremonies.

Campus Architect Jacqueline Norman says the central location of the garden enhances the campus landscape, contributing a “new level of importance and beauty to the HUB mall.”

Joshua Gonzales, director of Native American Student Programs and a committee member, expressed enthusiasm for the future use of the garden. “This opens up an opportunity for folks to learn a little more about the region’s Indigenous history,” he said.