eigh Joseph is the heart and mind behind Sḵwálwen Botanicals (pronounced “squall-win”), an Indigenous beauty line focused on plant-based skincare products. The line is rooted in the knowledge and understanding of Indigenous plants local to the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) First Nations regions in British Columbia, and aims to create a connection to the lands of the region through its abundant botanical resources.
In the Skwxwú7mesh language, Skwálwen translates to “essence of being”.
With a background in ethnobotany, Joseph, who is completing her Master of Science at the University of Victoria, has extensive knowledge on the relationships people have with plants. As a member of the Skwxwú7mesh First Nation, she aims to create harmony between Indigenous and Western plant science.
The ingredients used in Sḵwálwen’s products are hand foraged by Leigh and her team from various terrains in B.C. You’ll find Kalkáy (Wild Rose) from lush meadows in facial oil, toner, and multiple bath products, and Mimts’ (Usnea Lichen) from tree branches in hand sanitizer, room spray and hand soap. Calendula and the soothing herb plantain are ultra-gentle plant ingredients that are well tolerated across a range of skin types and are known to help calm irritated skin.
Both are primarily featured in Lúlum (pronounced “low-lum” and is Skwxwú7mesh for “to sing”), a new body care collection for moms-to-be and moms and their young ones, launched in April of this year. Joseph also names each product in the Skwxwú7mesh language, furthering her wish to
“draw on Indigenous knowledge in a contemporary way”
when it comes to plant-based skin care.
Joseph always pays her respects to the land and the plants she forages—sustainable foraging is the key to Sḵwálwen’s product and brand philosophy.
In Skwxwú7mesh culture, plants are considered relatives to people and are deserving of the same respect you’d give any person or living thing.
While foraging, Joseph also ensures that plants are left in a condition in which they can regenerate. By harvesting what she needs and nothing more, she is able to ensure that the plant will regrow and continue to contribute to the ecosystem in which they grow.
Like fruits and vegetables, Sḵwálwen product ingredients are also seasonal and best consumed when at their peak to ensure top-quality. By bringing the best to the table, Joseph and her team are able to create products that are organic, sustainable, and free from harsh chemical additives and synthetics. Small batch sizes are also key in preserving the integrity of the product and preserving the plant’s livelihood that they’re infused with.
Leigh cites her work with Indigenous plants as one of her deepest connections to the Skwxwú7mesh culture and community.
She recalls visits with her family from Snuneymuxw (Nanaimo First Nations), where she’d harvest veggies from her Uncle Chester’s garden and smoked salmon her Aunt Eva had caught herself. This connection her family had with the land left a mark on young Leigh, and is something she now hopes to pass on to her two young children. Her family has suffered from their experiences at residential schools, and found themselves disconnected from their Skwxwú7mesh culture. By connecting with the land around them, Leigh and her family have been able to reconcile their appreciation for their roots -- an appreciation she can now pass on to others through Sḵwálwen.