Lately I’ve been inspired by Native herbalists in Canada’s Pacific Northwest. I was fortunate to have met Arianna Johnny-Wadsworth at a Muckleshoot Veterans’ powwow. She is a Quw’utsun’ (Cowichan) tribal citizen from Vancouver, B.C. who formed a small holistic business called Quw’utsun’ Made, which primarily focuses on topical skincare products blended with herbal extracts. She operates through Instagram and Facebook to reach her customers and is currently working on a YouTube channel. Johnny-Wadsworth is dedicated to her work in holistic healing; when she is not busy making new batches of devil’s club salve, nettle mist, cedar perfume, or soy candles, she is leading local workshops in her Vancouver, fulfilling orders, or traveling to local Pacific Northwest events to sell.
Raised with her grandmother and some important matriarchs of her community, she learned at a young age to engage with her Quw’utsun’ culture in the longhouse traditions. Her grandmother raised her with different seeds, herbs, and teas in the household.
“When I graduated college, these teachings came back to me,” Johnny-Wadsworth said. “I knew it was important to share the gifts I had cultivated in my childhood. As a medicine woman it was my way of reclaiming my power and keeping my traditions alive.”
Johnny-Wadsworth incorporates her tribe’s values into her work by living off the land. She uses traditional plant medicines local to Coast Salish territory to heal the community. As part of a new generation of indigenous herbalists, she blends the new with the old. She applied her ancestral teachings with her holistic wellness education to create recipes for her skincare products.
Quw’utsun’ Made adheres to Johnny-Wadsworth’s strong ethical, environmental, and indigenous values her ancestors passed down to her: engage in vegan and cruelty-free best practices, ethically source packaging, live sustainably, take only what you will use and need, and promote wellness by sharing medicines with those who need it the most. Her mantra is, “Be a good ancestor.” It is a message to keep the earth healthy for all future generations.
Her words of caution and advice are similar to all who harvest wild plants: Don’t harvest plants too much from one area. Give plants time for regrowth. Rotate herb gathering spots. Harvest only what you intend to use. If applicable, give sacred prayers of thanks as one harvests. “It’s important to remember where we came from,” she said. “So much of our land has been harmed for industries that don’t think of the bigger picture. I pray that those who need the medicines harvest with good intentions and strong prayers.”
As a successful Quw’utsun’ entrepreneur, Johnny-Wadsworth believes that communities should support local small businesses. By planning to stay in the Pacific Northwest, she encourages community members to shop locally. Her long-term goal is to open a store along with her sisters, who are talented in art and fashion.
“I strongly encourage our youth and relatives to step outside their comfort zone and share the gifts Creator has given them.” Johnny-Wadsworth said of her tribal community. “I encourage our people to walk in a good way with a good heart and good mind. We need to share our knowledge and medicines more than ever.”
Does your area have any indigenous plants or teas that are traditionally used in holistic wellness? If so, what are they? Have you tried to use them?
Have you attended herbal workshops on how to create tinctures and salves before? If so, share the experience!