UC Davis Dedicates
Historic Native American
Condensed by Native Village
California: A new outdoor reflective
space at the University
of California, Davis, honors the Patwin
upon whose homelands UC
Davis was built.
The Native American Contemplative Garden is part of a larger UC Davis project which educates others about the land's original inhabitants, the Patwin (Wintun). It may be the first program of its kind in the nation.
Inés Hernández-Avila, a native studies professor and person of Nez Perce and Chicana heritage, calls it "a work of spirit." She said Patwin elders collaborated with the project and are helping with the healing after campus construction projects disturbed native remains.
"The land that UC Davis sits on is ancestrally Patwin land," said Hernández-Avila. "This contemplative garden is a reminder that the connection still exists for the Patwin people who themselves are a living presence in California."
The Contemplative Garden sits on the bank of Putah Creek within the UC Davis Arboretum, a world-renown living museum with 100 acres of gardens and plants. It features natural basalt columns representing the Patwin people and their strength and resilience. One column is engraved with the names of 51 local Patwin men, women and children who were forced to leave their village, called Putoy, from 1817 to 1836. The Patwin were taken to missions by Spanish soldiers and missionaries.
The Garden includes
about 34 varieties of
trees and plants used by
the Patwin for food,
medicine, basketry and
more. Many are
identified by their
Patwin names. The garden
also includes a curving path
representing the flow of
the creek and the flow
of time, and a spiral
seating area designed
after the coiled start
of a Patwin basket.
The Patwin people lived in hundreds of villages lining the creeks from Glenn County to San Francisco Bay. They were decimated by disease and forced relocation. Only three federally recognized Patwin (Wintun) Indian rancherias remain.
A committee of staff and students from UC Davis and the Patwin community worked together to develop the plan to honor the local Patwin heritage. The project also serves to mark the Patwin's spiritual connection to the land and their ancestors.
"Where there was once anger and distrust, there is now respect, trust, a common purpose," said committee member Sheri Tatsch, UC Davis graduate and native language consultant.
Patwin Elder Wright has said the new reflective area offers encouragement to American Indian students, telling them that they belong here, that they belong in higher education -- and they can say, "I'm a part of this."
UC Davis enrolled its first students in 1908. Their Native American studies department is one of only two in the nation offer a Ph.D. in Native American studies.