Seattle University's Ethnobotanical Garden is honored to bear the name of taqwsheblu Vi Hilbert (1918-2008), a much-loved and deeply respected elder of the Upper Skagit tribe. As a teacher, storyteller, researcher and writer, Vi spent nearly forty years devoting her remarkable talents and energy to the "reawakening" of Lushootseed, her native language and the traditional language spoken by many Native peoples in the Puget Sound area. Vi was named a Washington State Living Treasure in 1989, and in 1994 President Bill Clinton presented her with the nation's highest award in the arts, the National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellowship.
Among her many awards and distinctions, Vi held an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Seattle University, and it is our privilege to be associated with both her many achievements and her great personal integrity. In granting us permission to use her name for the Garden, Vi also generously contributed two phrases that describe traditions of respect for the non-human world among Lushootseed-speaking peoples: "The earth is our first teacher" and "Gifts of the Creator." The Garden's Lushootseed language signage supports Vi's revitalization of Lushootseed language and culture, and pays homage to the respectful, sophisticated and sustainable relationships between First Peoples and non-humans in this region.