Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge

Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge: Ethnobotany and Ecological Wisdom of Indigenous Peoples of Northwestern North America

Nancy J. Turner
Copyright Date: 2014
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    Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge
    Book Description:

    Volume 1: The History and Practice of Indigenous Plant Knowledge Volume 2: The Place and Meaning of Plants in Indigenous Cultures and Worldviews Nancy Turner has studied Indigenous peoples' knowledge of plants and environments in northwestern North America for over forty years. In Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge, she integrates her research into a two-volume ethnobotanical tour-de-force. Drawing on information shared by Indigenous botanical experts and collaborators, the ethnographic and historical record, and from linguistics, palaeobotany, archaeology, phytogeography, and other fields, Turner weaves together a complex understanding of the traditions of use and management of plant resources in this vast region. She follows Indigenous inhabitants over time and through space, showing how they actively participated in their environments, managed and cultivated valued plant resources, and maintained key habitats that supported their dynamic cultures for thousands of years, as well as how knowledge was passed on from generation to generation and from one community to another. To understand the values and perspectives that have guided Indigenous ethnobotanical knowledge and practices, Turner looks beyond the details of individual plant species and their uses to determine the overall patterns and processes of their development, application, and adaptation. Volume 1 presents a historical overview of ethnobotonical knowledge in the region before and after European contact. The ways in which Indigenous peoples used and interacted with plants - for nutrition, technologies, and medicine - are examined. Drawing connections between similarities across languages, Turner compares the names of over 250 plant species in more than fifty Indigenous languages and dialects to demonstrate the prominence of certain plants in various cultures and the sharing of goods and ideas between peoples. She also examines the effects that introduced species and colonialism had on the region's Indigenous peoples and their ecologies. Volume 2 provides a sweeping account of how Indigenous organizational systems developed to facilitate the harvesting, use, and cultivation of plants, to establish economic connections across linguistic and cultural borders, and to preserve and manage resources and habitats. Turner describes the worldviews and philosophies that emerged from the interactions between peoples and plants, and how these understandings are expressed through cultures’ stories and narratives. Finally, she explores the ways in which botanical and ecological knowledge can be and are being maintained as living, adaptive systems that promote healthy cultures, environments, and indigenous plant populations. Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge both challenges and contributes to existing knowledge of Indigenous peoples' land stewardship while preserving information that might otherwise have been lost. Providing new and captivating insights into the anthropogenic systems of northwestern North America, it will stand as an authoritative reference work and contribute to a fuller understanding of the interactions between cultures and ecological systems.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8539-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xxx)
    (pp. xxxi-2)
  6. 1 Introduction to the Book: Ethnobotanical and Ethnoecological Knowledge across Time and Space
    (pp. 3-40)

    This book investigates people-plant interrelationships in northwestern North America in an effort to better understand the pathways and processes by which ethnobotanical and ethnoecological knowledge systems of Indigenous peoples in this area have developed, accumulated, spread, and evolved over time. Ethnobotany can be defined as the study of the interrelationships between people and plants, and ethnoecology as the study of people’s interrelationships with their environments. In every cultural group, in every community, over generations extending back thousands of years, there have been individuals, both women and men, who were experts in their knowledge of plants and environments, who knew how...

  7. 2 Into the Past: Ancient Relationships among People, Plants, and Environments
    (pp. 43-116)

    Wapato, or “swamp potato” (Sagittaria latifolia), is widely known as a tuberous root vegetable. Its cultural importance in the recent past for Indigenous peoples of the Fraser and Columbia Valleys, the Shuswap Lake area, and elsewhere in North America is well documented.¹ However, the antiquity of its use is still little known. Therefore, when my friend and palaeoethnobotanist Dana Lepofsky sent me an e-mail on 20 August 2007 about an archaeological discovery of wapato, her note was infused with thinly masked excitement. She explained how the Katzie First Nation of the Fraser Valley was undertaking some archaeo logical mitigation work,...

  8. 3 Reflections on Plant Names in Understanding the History of People-Plant Relationships
    (pp. 117-190)

    Yaał(Massett dialect)¹ [Raven] was visiting the Beaver People. Two days consecutively, he was served salmon, highbush cranberries [łaayi] and the inside parts of the mountain goat. On the second morning,yaałwas taken behind a screen where there was a fishtrap in a creek filled with salmon, and several points on a lake which were red with cranberries. After the beavers had gone for the day,yaałate the usual meal. Then he stole the salmon-filled lake and the house, rolling it up and hiding it under his arm, and climbed a tree with it. When the beavers returned,...

  9. 4 Change, Loss, and Adaptation of Plant Traditions
    (pp. 191-260)

    A man by the name of McKay came to build his house on that place [at the mouth of the Kingcome River on the central coast of British Columbia] as well as the other whitemen who also came and built their houses there. This McKay took for himself the land where our forefathers always got their food. We know this place where the women used to take the [edible] roots out of the ground ... They put down stakes [to] mark the boundary lines for each one, and to our surprise this whiteman came and just took the place and...

  10. 5 Plants as Food: Development, Diversity, Dissemination
    (pp. 263-334)

    Next month [October] is the month for gathering silverweed roots [Argentina egedii] by the women. They will dig as many roots as they could gather ... When I was a child I would go out with the root digger. As soon as she filled the pack basket she would go home and wash the roots and dry them on a mat ... She gathers like this for many days, until she has as much as she needs for winter. Then she quits. They invited each other, I guess so they won’t be lonely or sad, because they are happy, passing...

  11. 6 Plant Use in Technology over Time and Space
    (pp. 335-414)

    The birch tree is really important to our people. It has a lot to offer our people. The bark is made into a container ... When we go to gather our material for the basket making, it takes about a whole day of searching and hunting for the right kind of bark. You don’t just go to any tree and strip it. You have to look for the right texture ... You take about a day to gather your material, and then sit down and cut it out and leave it. You’ve got to remember that you have to have...

  12. 7 Herbal Medicine and Healing Traditions
    (pp. 415-466)

    Some years ago a young Nlaka’pamux man near Merritt, British Columbia, was sharpening his hunting knife. He carefully ground it down to a razor-sharp edge, and then, pulling his hair braid around to the front, he called to his mother for a demonstration of how sharp his knife was. He intended to whisk away the little handful of hair at the end of his braid, but he misjudged the cut. Instead, the severed tip of his thumb flew across the room. His mother ran over and grabbed it. Putting it back in place over her son’s cut, she then went...

  13. APPENDIX 1: Major Sources of Information for the Book
    (pp. 467-472)
  14. APPENDIX 2: Names of Selected Native Plant Species in Indigenous Languages of Northwestern North America
    (pp. 473-506)
  15. APPENDIX 3: Names of Two Introduced Plants (Turnip and Potato) in Indigenous Languages of Northwestern North America
    (pp. 507-514)
  16. NOTES
    (pp. 515-554)
  17. Middle Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  20. 8 Moving for the Harvest: Seasonal Rounds and Plant Knowledge
    (pp. 3-50)

    A whole bunch of us would go up … on top of the mountain, way up high, close to the snow line, by horseback every year … for a few days, three of four days or a week, mainly to pick huckleberries [Vaccinium membranaceum]. These berries are ripe in August, and that’s when people would go up … We got huckleberries, and dug roots while we were up there, wild potatoes [Claytonia lanceolata], wild onions [Allium cernuum], whatever we could find up there on the mountain. The men would hunt too … I haven’t been up there since I was...

  21. 9 Cultural Institutions Related to Ethnobotanical Knowledge and Practice
    (pp. 51-100)

    “Long time ago, whenever people came back on horseback off the mountain after a hunting trip, they would all start singing. It sounded so beautiful, a dozen people or more on horseback breaking into song, coming down the mountain, coming home.” Away from the travels, the drumbeat emulates the rhythmic sound of the horse-hoofs through the ravines. They voice the joy of coming home after a long day, or days of riding and camping. (R.E. Ignace 2008, 163, quoting Secwepemc elder Christine Simon)

    We humans are social animals, and one of the keys to our success as a species has...

  22. 10 Trade and Exchange: Sharing Plant Products and Ethnobotanical Knowledge across Geographical and Cultural Space
    (pp. 101-144)

    Chief Arthur Adolph is a member of the Xaxl’ip (Xaxl’ep) community, of the Upper Stl’atl’imx/St’at’imc (Lillooet) Interior Salish. Xaxl’ep, also known as “The Fountain,” is located just north of Lillooet along the Fraser Canyon. In November 2008 Art recounted a story that typifies the kind of plant resource exchange between different Indigenous communities that has been occurring in one form or another probably since the Early Holocene. He explained that the Upper, or Fraser River, Stl’atl’imx have access to certain interior berries, most notablystsáqwəm(saskatoon berries,Amelanchier alnifolia) andsxwúsum(soapberries,Shepherdia canadensis), which are not generally found in...

  23. 11 Management and Sustainability of Plant Resources and Habitats
    (pp. 145-228)

    The late Mrs. Joshua Moody, she used to do that [cultivating springbank clover] in the 1920s, in that little island here at Bella Coola where the tide comes in. She used to choose a place … where there’s soft sand. I hear she’s got quite a bit of it because she was looking after it. The more you soften it the more they grow in there. She picked the roots and planted them, early in the spring, like April … she used that wooden digging stick … they have to have it where the tide comes in. It’s got no...

  24. 12 Narratives in Transmission of Ethnobotanical Knowledge
    (pp. 231-296)

    And my ancestorts’eqamey [c’eqamey]was told that this flood was coming, and he was told how to prepare for it. And he was told to go to look for a large cedar tree, and to hollow it out … And so that’s what he did. He prepared the tree and he put all the food and all the things he would need in the tree, and then he sealed himself and his family in this tree … When he entered the cedar tree, his name washawilkwala,which means “cedar tree,” but when he came out, he was told,...

  25. 13 Worldview and Belief Systems in Ethnobotanical Knowledge Systems
    (pp. 297-350)

    “The same spirit that we have.”Gilbert Solomon of the Tsilhqot’in Nation, recounting his teachings from his mother, Mabel Solomon, and other elders, expressed as part of his court testimony a concept and a perspective that was held by any number of women and men of his mother’s generation of the mid-1900s from Indigenous communities right across North America and beyond. Secwepemc elder Mary Thomas (pers. comm., 2001) recalled observing her own grandmother, from an even earlier generation:

    My grandmother, I watched her when we were little. If she went to gather medicine or some kind of edible that was...

  26. 14 Ancient Pathways and New Pathways for Retaining and Renewing Botanical and Environmental Knowledge Systems for the Future
    (pp. 351-412)

    In a single sentence Mary Thomas, Secwepemc elder and cultural specialist, portrayed the essence of an Indigenous perspective that is widespread within the cultural groups of the study area:We humans are only strands in the immense fabric of the universe.This is a critically important idea – one that has been evidently little recognized in our predominantly urbanized, industrialized, and increasingly globalized societies. Most of us seem to behave as though we humans are all that counts – as though the environment no longer matters. We are increasingly appropriating more and more of the earth’s production. Yet it is at our...

  27. NOTES
    (pp. 413-440)
    (pp. 441-502)
    (pp. 503-512)
    (pp. 513-552)