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  • Jennifer Jewell


The sacred California native white sage (Salvia apiana), a favorite plant elder and teacher for Nick Hummingbird. Photo by Native Hummingbird, all rights reserved.



Among the garden ways that intrigue me – from my earliest memories to now - are those gardening ways of the first peoples of the world. Indigenous plantsman Nick Hernandez (also known as Nick Hummingbird and on Instagram as @_Native_Hummingbird) is of Southern California origin– his garden journey and practice expands on our ongoing conversation about what it means to garden, and why this is so important.

Nick is an indigenous Californian from Southern California, a plant lover, a partner to his wife, Monica, and a father to a very new young son, Tuhui (which means rain). Nick is an educator at heart and a tireless voice and agent of change advocating for California's native plants, animals and landscapes. In his own words: They need his – and all of our - Voices.

Nick and now Tuhui's, ancesteors tended, managed and worked with the plant's and landscapes' seasonal cycles and abundance for their food, utility, meaning and spirit. His work is dedicated to being a voice of education and protection for these plants, these landscapes and these ancient garden ways, encouraging the rising of their voices going forward

“When I talk about community, it’s not just people or races of people,

but an environment of plants and animals, air, water, land -

past present and future generations - that’s community."

- Nick Hummingbird

In the course of our conversation, Nick notes that "Indigenous people are the least consulted group - we are a true minority in our own land - just a couple of million people in over 400 million people. So you think about the human history of our genocide and marginalization and then you think about the environment and you think how do these things correlate and we are the human translation of the environment. We have rivers, lakes, streams, plants, animals and mountains and all of those things have a story. They teach you about place they teach you about history, and morals and values and adherence and respect and love and admiration for them."

In a recent mission statement of sorts Nick wrote: “Everyday I am inspired by those who share an understanding, love and relationship to nature and what we all need as human beings to survive. I am one person and I believe wholeheartedly in everything I try to accomplish for my people, people for me are humanity, plants, animals, air, water, land and the continuation of all of that. I'm proud to be a father of a son who will grow up learning everything I have and building upon that knowledge, I'm grateful for the life that I have. I'm forever in the service of making the world a better place through actions and unrelenting hope.”

As he says, the plants need his voice. As a gardener, I say we all need voices like his. We’ll be right back after a break to hear more.

Nick - just 28 years old - has a passion for plants and purpose that just lights me up. His clear insight into how the history and future of indigenous peoples is analagous to the history and fate of our natural areas was one of those moments in an interview conversation in which I could physically feel my own awareness and understanding expand.

Indeed all of our relationships to our lands, and to the peoples of those lands, can and should tell us a great deal about how we see ourselves – and how we see the future of this great globe. In his own gardening and cultural journey, Nick acknowledges how plants have saved him - several times over.

How many times have each of us been saved by the plants of our places?

As our conversation made clear, Nick is an active, ardent member and supporter of the cultural resources of his area. When people ask him how they can learn more and be more supportive themselves, these are the organizations he recommends looking into:

Nick regularly collects and shares native plant seeds with others, this fall he listed these seeds as available:

Monkey flower (mimulus aurantiacus) California poppy (eschscholzia californica) Bladderpod (isomeris arborea) Common yarrow (achillea millefolium) White sage (salvia apiana) Black sage (Salvia mellifera) Common buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) California black walnut (Juglans californica) Foothill needle grass (Stipa cernua) coastal sunflower (Encelia Californica) Arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus) Birds eye gilia (Gilia tricolor) Tansy leaf phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia) Desert bluebells (Phacelia campanularia) California bay laurel (Umbellularia californica) Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) Available for California peeps only, $3 each or 2 for $5 or 5 for $10.

For more information on Nick, his seed and plant sales, his ethnobotanical classes or hikes, follow him on Instagram: @_Native_Hummingbird

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