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The Ecology of Plant Gathering with Tl'azt'en Nation

Leona Shaw, MNRES Candidate

Plant resource use was (and is) infused with ecological knowledge and may take many forms (Turner et al. 2000). The flowering of certain plants, seasonal signals, and production of certain berries all act as indicators for people to know when to gather/harvest particular resources. For example, Indigenous gatherers use these signals to determine when particular roots are ready to be harvested or when to gather certain berries (Turner 1997).

Many medicinal plants which play an essential role in Indigenous health care (Hamilton 2004) are considered to be in need of protection and conservation (Hamilton 2004; Kala 2005). This study seeks to support the protection of this important resource.

To consider protective measures for food and medicinal plants, it is necessary to understand the ecology of gathering sites and why some sites are chosen over others. The specific objectives of this study are:

  • To collect information about the ecology of medicinal and food plant gathering sites
  • To gain understanding of the criteria for gathering individual plants for medicinal, food and/or traditional technological use (e.g. size and age of the plants, proximity to water, time of day)
  • To understand why traditional plant gathering sites may fall out of use
  • To assess the impact of current land management practices on the viability of traditional plant gathering sites
  • To develop recommmendations that will support the protection of plant gathering activities and sites

The intent of this study is to consolidate information relevant to protection of traditional gathering sites, which can be formulated into policy for Tl'azt'en Nation's continued management of their traditional lands. Information specific to individual plant characteristics and plant gathering sites will be part of these recommendations and will be used in current land management and towards the restoration of gathering sites that have been lost.

Perpetuation of this traditional knowledge is important to Tl'azt'en Nation. Information gathered in this project may also be used to develop teaching materials, which Tl'azt'en Nation will use in their TEK educational programs. Two meetings for this project have taken place in the community, in which participants generated and prioritized a list of 15 plants to focus on in this research. I am currently working with participants to complete a detailed survey, which will be followed by field sessions in the spring to document the ecology of the 15 plants and their gathering sites.

Hamilton, A.C. (2004) Medicinal plants, conservation and livelihoods. Biodiversity and Conservation 13: 1477-1517. Kala, C.P. (2005) Indigenous uses, population density, and conservation of threatened medicinal plants in protected areas of the Indian Himalayas. Conservation Biology 19 (2): 368-378. Turner, N.J. (1997) Traditional ecological knowledge. Pg. 275-298 in P.K. Schoonmaker, B.Von Hagen, and E.C. Wolf, editors. The rain forest of home: profile of a North American bioregion. Ecotrust. Island Press, Covelo, California, USA. Turner, N.J., M.B. Igance, and R. Ignace. (2000) Traditional ecolgocial knowledge and wisdom of Aboriginal peoples in British Columbia. Ecological Applications 10 (5): 1275-1287.

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© Tl'azt'en Nation and the University of Northern BC CURA - Partnering for Sustainable Resource Management, 2005

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