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W̱SĺḴEM (Tseycum) translates to place of clay in the SENĆOŦEN language.

A Brief History of the Land

This land is part of the ancestral territory of the W̱SÁNEĆ people, and more specifically the W̱SĺḴEM First Nation, though we believe it was considered to be a place of refuge and gathering amongst nations. W̱SĺḴEM is a SENĆOŦEN word, which translates as place of clay. The SENĆOŦEN speaking* people stewarded these lands and waters since time immemorial, and had abundant, diverse food systems based on reciprocal relationship with lands, waters, plants and animals. A few large Garry oaks remain in the fields at Sandown, pointing to the likelihood that it was once a Garry Oak Ecosystem. These ecosystems were managed landscapes, and grew QʷⱢƏⱢ (Camas), a staple food in the traditional diet of the W̱SÁNEĆ people. It is believed that around the year 1800, there were 10,443 hectares of Garry Oak meadow in what is now Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula. Only 512 hectares remain today.

This land was colonized in the mid 1800s as part of a 500-acre farm estate, and cleared for grain and vegetable production. It is important to address the fact that European farming practices disrupted and supplanted Indigenous food systems, undermining the self-sufficiency and sustainability of Indigenous communities. The promise of agricultural land was used to attract settlers, which contributed to ongoing colonization and the attempted assimilation, displacement and erasure of Indigenous people from their ancestral lands and waters.

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Farming continued until the 1950s and in 1952, construction began on the Sandown Racetrack which included multiple riding rings, a grandstand, accessory buildings and a parking lot. The racetrack opened in 1955 and was in operation until 2001, when it was decommissioned and subsequently demolished. Many North Saanich residents have stories and memories of the rack track, and indeed, we have found a number of souvenir horse shoes, beer bottles, cans, and countless other artifacts from this time.

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In 2011 the landowners were able to negotiate rezoning 12 acres of the ALR parcel to commercial, which allowed for the development of the adjacent commercial park. The development includes a Canadian Tire and U-Haul, with plans for a Red Barn Market, among other retailers.

In 2014, the District of North Saanich (DNS) approved the transfer of the remaining 83-acre parcel of ALR land to the municipality as part of the priority actions in the District's Agricultural Strategy. This was followed by a period of community consultation and input called “Vision Sandown”, led by the food systems non-profit organization CRFAIR. The outcome of this process demonstrated a strong community sentiment for Sandown to serve as a site for local food production, education, stewardship and restoration.

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The land is highly degraded from historical use and requires significant restoration to address extreme soil compaction, infill of rock and gravel, loss of biodiversity and invasive species pressure, loss of topsoil, and industrial debris left behind during demolition. Approximately 25 acres of the land now functions as a District integrated stormwater management plan. Excess water during extreme weather events is diverted onto Sandown, draining slowly through culverts into W̱SĺḴEM creek. This area is not suitable for agriculture.


The Circular Farm and Food Society, the backbone of the Sandown Centre, was granted the Licence to Operate on the Sandown lands, following a request for submissions, review and approval by North Saanich Council. The Sandown Centre for Regenerative Agriculture was founded in 2020, and began its Regenerative Farmer and restoration programs in the spring of 2021. Sandown’s mission is to showcase environmentally sustainable agriculture, demonstrate ecosystem and soil health restoration, and educate and empower the next generation of regenerative farmers. We are only just beginning our work, and we are grateful for the ongoing support from the North Saanich community and beyond.

* It is important to highlight the impact of colonization on the use of the SENĆOŦEN language. Many people within the W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations may not speak SENĆOŦEN today, due to the attempted erasure of First Nations languages by government bans, regulations, and the horrors of the residential “school” system. At Sandown, we aim to foster a deeper understanding of these historical injustices, recognize the importance of revitalizing and preserving the SENĆOŦEN language, and commit to learning and sharing in ways that are appropriate for us to do so. Click here for more information on the history of the SENĆOŦEN language.

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