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"You came back!"

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of participating in our July workshop, which featured Ethnobotanist, Rose Bear Don't Walk of the Bitterroot Salish and Crow Tribes. During her session, Rose shared her passion for plants as more than just food. For her people, plant knowledge, preparation, consumption, and the social aspects of plant processing, all have the ability to improve the nutritional, emotional, spiritual, and cultural wellness of Indigenous Peoples. She went on to share that everyone can benefit from having a positive relationship with plants, and provided a few tools that all people can integrate into their daily lives to ensure we experience the beauty of interconnectedness that plants have to offer. One of my favourite teachings was related to her encouragement to greet plants with gratitude.

"When it comes to actually interacting and engaging with plants, gratitude is a really huge aspect of Indigenous methodologies. We don't just pick a plant and then go about our day. We say hi to the plant. Usually when I see a plant [that has returned] for the first time I get really excited because I think, 'oh my gosh, you came back!' It's really nice because it feels like you are seeing a relative again. So, you wouldn't just rip a relative out of the ground and throw it away. Honouring that relationship and being gracious and respectful is really important to maintaining that positive relationship. Some people leave offerings, and will bring tobacco, sage or sweetgrass, because the plants are giving their lives up for us to eat. But also, you can just say thank you in your head, or gently acknowledge the plant - because it is living too. It is a living, photosynthesizing being.”

Last week I had the privilege of traveling to the traditional territory of the Southern Paiute Peoples, and during my time there I was grateful to experience a desert hike at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. While I was walking, I kept reflecting on Rose's words as I took in the foreign flora that surrounded me. One plant in particular caught my eye - tall and bright red, with feathery tops. It twinged my brain - could it be? I took a photo, used the plant identification tool in my iPhone, and was excited to realize that I'd stumbled upon one of the plants Rose had referenced in her presentation. I had found Indian Paintbrush, whose traditional Salish name meaning 'thundersparks', which Rose explains "describes the interaction that happens when the lightning meets the earth".

It is enthralling to discover the things that I have the privilege to learn about, and witness them in their natural setting. Can you identify any local, Indigenous plants? Do you know their traditional names or purposes? I would love to hear, and invite you to share in the comments.

In learning,

Kim at Culturally Committed

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