Dr. Nancy Turner, one of Canada’s leading ethnobotanists was in Castlegar Monday to give a special presentation and tour local camas meadows. Turner is a Distinguished Professor and Hakai Professor in Ethnoecology in the School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria.
Turner explained the role of an ethnobotanist, “It is someone who is interested in the connections between people and plants and the environment and the knowledge people hold about the plants. I am just forever a student, learning from people who know particular places and particular plants with a depth that goes back generations. It’s the relationship between people and plants, so it covers language, stories, belief systems as well as traditional foods, medicines and materials.”
Dr. Turner draws from over 45 years of community-based research working with First Nations elders and cultural specialists in northwestern North America.
Her sold out presentation at Selkirk College was on root food plants of the British Columbia Interior. Dr. Brenda Beckworth stated, “This is an exceptional opportunity to hear an international leader in, and advocate for, the preservation of traditional knowledge of plants and cultural landscapes.”She further described Turner, “There is no one else quite like her literally in Canada and I would say the world in terms of her level of the breadth and depth of her ethnobotanical knowledge.”
The events coincide with the beginning of a three year integrated propagation, restoration and research project called “Restoring Camas along the Columbia”.
Camas is an important heritage plant that sustained people for thousands of years. Beckworth explained, “This plant really needs us and we need it. It has a really important story to tell. We really do need to have that story around and the plant for future generations.”
The tour included a stop at Millennium Park. The gathering included people from several First Nations including those from the Kalispel, Federated Colville, Okanagan and Spokane Tribes.
Beckworth was pleased with the turnout, “This is unprecedented. This is what this plant does. This is what it has done for generations. The confluence of the rivers is more than just connecting rivers, its about connecting people. It’s about using a plant like this, elevating it to the point where it is a beacon, it draws people to it.”
The Kootenay Native Plant Society will be sponsoring the third annual Camas Discovery Day May 3 at Millenium Park. The event will include an interpretive walk beginning at 10:00 am. For more information see www.kootenaynativeplants.ca.