EP30 Native Plants

Misamaaki (translation: Longtime Woman. Her English name is Lori Brave Rock) and Api’soomaahka (translation: Running Coyote. His English name is William Singer III) of the Kainai Ecosystem Protection Association (KEPA) tell their personal stories and how those stories relate to the native plants of Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) territory. From wild turnip to Indian breadroot, from nodding onion to saskatoons and wild peppermint every plant has a story and in the Niitsitapi worldview you cannot know the plants without knowing their stories.

This is probably the most culturally unique episode we have done yet. A lot of topics are covered in this one that we do not normally cover like colonization, Indian Residential Schools and life on a reserve, but through this journey we learned valuable cultural lessons and about the native plants of southern Alberta and recorded stories that warm the heart.

Highlights:

(5:50) Cultural Lesson #1 – how to offer tobacco and ask someone to share their knowledge in Niitsitapi culture.

(18:20) Experiments in “Blackfoot horticulture”, which is a relatively new thing and building a seed bank.

(23:44) Working with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) to incorporate land-based teachings into the first-year culinary program.

(26:30) Many of the native plants used in Niitsitapi culture have both traditional and medicinal uses.

(32:30) Changes to the Niitsitapi diet after colonization.

(42:00) Water is big limiting factor in growing vegetables on reserve.

(50:30) “We can’t waste time.” Native plants are dwindling on the reserve so there is no time to waste in order conserve them.

(54:30) Spread of leafy spurge on and off the reserve.

(56:30) Cultural connections to native plants –“literally all of our lives are tied to the land” as Indigenous People.

(1:03:00) Why William and Lori are happy to share their knowledge and stories with Indigenous and non-Indigenous People.

(1:10:30) How William became the “plants guy” as our host puts it.

(1:14:50) How climate change is impacting their work.

(1:20:00) Native plants that William and Lori want to try out in the greenhouse.

Useful Links:

William Singer’s artwork and stories (e.g. the bison story Derek tells). Click¬†here.

Kainai Ecosystem Protection Association
https://www.facebook.com/Kainai-Ecosystem-Protection-Association-KEPA-1428056414162724/

Dr. Leroy Little Bear
https://www.lieutenantgovernor.ab.ca/aoe/education/leroy-little-bear/index.html

Indian Residential Schools
https://nctr.ca/map.php

Xeriscaping
https://oldmanwatershed.ca/what-is-xeriscaping

Kainai First Nation
https://bloodtribe.org/

Niitsitapi (Blackfoot Confederacy)
http://blackfootconfederacy.ca/

Native plants in Alberta
https://anpc.ab.ca/

Treaty 7
http://makingtreaty7.com/about-making-treaty-7/

Want to learn more? Listen to our Farm Elders series and hear the stories of agricultural producers Don Ruzicka and Mary and Peter Lungard and their connection to the land.