Leigh Joseph - Sḵwálwen Botanicals

Leigh Joseph - Sḵwálwen Botanicals

traditional beginnings

Before there was a conversation about clean, green and natural skincare, there were communities of Indigenous womxn who cultivated and foraged for plants in the forests and meadows to use as food and medicine. Instructed by cultural teachings, they identified the plants that, when blended together, could unlock health and healing.

Today, Sḵwálwen (skwall-win) is an Indigenous skincare line that honours Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) plant knowledge and ancestral traditions by using sustainably harvested and sourced organic plants to balance, renew, repair, strengthen, hydrate and protect the skin. Sḵwálwen is the Squamish word for heart. Each product has a Squamish name to honor the place where this plant knowledge comes from.

Leigh Joseph, PhD 

A protector of the collective and a keeper of knowledge, Leigh Joseph, PhD, whose ancestral name is Styawat, is the ethnobotanist, researcher, activist, and Indigenous founder of Sḵwálwen. She is also a mother and wife, a daughter and community leader whose aim is to help heal the intergenerational effects of cultural trauma within the Squamish Nation by learning, working with and preserving Indigenous plants, and carrying them forward into the modern world.

Weaving together the wisdom passed down through her ancestors and the knowledge gained through her academic career, Leigh acts as a living bridge between past and present, plants and people.

Leigh approaches the natural world gently and respectfully, harvesting with techniques that are ethical and sustainable. Each batch of botanical-based products carries the richness and potency of the natural world, without any harsh chemicals, phthalates, synthetics or parabens.

Sḵwálwen represents more than skincare. It is a ceremonial offering of Indigenous plant wisdom that keeps ancestral tradition alive.

"My interest in the relationship between food and culture developed at an early age and was nourished by my visits with my late uncle, Chester Thomas, and his wife Eva. My grandmother’s family is from the Snuneymuxw, or Nanaimo First Nations, and I visited her brother often on his land along the Nanaimo River when I was a child. My memories of that time include picking fresh fruits and vegetables from his garden and watching him prepare the salmon that he and my aunt caught and smoked on their property. I remember the fresh blackberry juice my aunt would often make to go with each meal.

These early experiences had a lasting impact on me. They were responsible for instilling in me a deep respect for the natural world. They also developed my awareness of how important the links between food and culture are. These meals have stayed vividly with me, not only because we were eating healthy food but because of the spirituality that was woven into them in the harvesting and preparing of the foods and the offering of thanks to the plants and animals that had given their lives for our nourishment."