Alexandra Thomas is a Forestry Resources Management undergraduate student minoring in Community and Aboriginal Forestry at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She is Kwakwaka’wakw and Coast Salish, with maternal lineage from Tlowitsis First Nation and paternal lineage from shíshálh First Nation. Thomas, Naxnagəm, envisions a future where the urban hub on xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and səlilwətaɬ territories return to how it once was — lush with Coast Salish plants that create cooling effects and healing while also purifying the air.
Thomas’s project is aimed at addressing heat islands (also referred to as heat domes or heat waves) in the DTES, and will provide opportunities for community connections through Indigenous ways of knowing — specifically Coast Salish plant knowledge. Thomas’s re-greening the DTES project proposal was selected to receive the money from UBC’s Indigenous Strategic Initiatives Fund as part of a wider group of student projects.
“I think that [plant knowledge] is one of the biggest resources we have lost in a lot of our Indigenous communities,” said Thomas. “They sustained us and kept us alive for millennia, and they have so much power, whether it be medicinal or food or tools.”