A Medicinal Garden Grows at Washington State Penitentiary

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Aug 10, 2020

The Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) and the Indigenous non-profit advocacy organization Huy are collaborating to help incarcerated Indigenous people gain access to spiritual rehabilitation by planting and growing medicinal plants inside the facility for religious and spiritual use, Huy announced in a release.

Called the Sustainable Practice Lab, Huy chairman Gabe Galanda teamed up with WPS’ superintendent Donald Holbrook and corrections specialist Christopher McGill to create the program. The incarcerated were involved from the very beginning, as they gathered the seeds and supplies to start the program. The program is essential in many ways, as the plants—lavender, sweetgrass and sage—are often used in spiritual ceremonies, such as the sweat lodge where the medicines are offered via prayers to a deity known as the Creator or Grandfather. What’s more, WSP is on ancestral Indigenous lands.

“Growing our Native American medicines at the Penitentiary helps all of us,” Donald C., an incarcerated individual who worked on the project, said in the release. “To be able to put our energy into growing medicine is another step in our life to be able to help our people.”

A Sustainable Practice Lab is also being created at Spokane’s Airway Heights Corrections Center and at Clallam Bay Corrections Center, both in Washington. As Galanda said in the release, "The program helps our relatives prepare to come back home in a good way."