One of my favourite childhood memories was being kicked out of the house by my young mother to search for food. Here was the deal: we had to fill up the ice cream bucket. Then we could come home and help her make saskatoon pie, choke cherry jelly, wild strawberry shortcake, whatever we ended up finding (though she didn’t think stewing the bucket of frogs was a good idea and asked us to kindly return them to where they came from).
So off we went, my two sisters and I, usually a dog or two tagging along. No cell phones, bear spray, or plant ID books. There were creeks to quench our thirst and berries to fill our bellies. In the current day and age, some circles would deem this seriously neglectful. But we were given the freedom to wander the wilds from a very young age. Thankfully, no children were lost, poisoned, or mauled. Those early experiences left me more at home in the woods than in any bustling city (thanks Mom!)
A while back I led a group of children hiking. It was June. The saskatoons around Pemberton were in their absolute prime. After a discussion on why it is important to know what you are eating in the wild, I let the kids gorge on the sweet, nutty berries that have sustained people on this landscape for thousands of years. While some had eaten berries in the wild before, many had not. So it was a delightful culinary and cultural journey!
It made me think about how important that knowledge is – to know about the plants that make this place so special, to know what you can eat in the woods, what can nourish you, heal you. To know the important role these plants have played in the lives of local First Nations since time before memory.
Where could our communities, our people, learn about this?
The idea for the Native Plant Garden was born.
While we (Stewardship Pemberton) wanted to incorporate ecological knowledge on the signs, it was equally important for us to incorporate cultural information. We wanted a place for people to be able to learn about and see the beauty of these native plants, know their uses, their names, (in English, Latin and Ucwalmicwts), their spiritual attributes, and some interesting facts.
When Stewardship Pemberton first approached Líl̓wat Nation member Lois Joseph to talk about the possibility of naming the plants in Ucwalmicwts, we did not expect to be have the honour of also receiving extraordinary cultural and ecological knowledge. Knowledge that has been passed on from one generation to the next through oral stories, medicine gathering, and berry picking. Although this project was spearheaded by SPS, I feel that what makes it really special is this marrying of information, community, and cultural.
Kukwstumckálap – Thank you – to all the people from Líl̓wat Nation who have made this project amazing. Thank you for your blessing to allow the sharing of this knowledge.
Another big Kukwstumckálap to our funders: Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Whistler. We hope that everyone will come to the Nature Centre once the signs are installed later this spring. SPS is also looking for volunteers to help with installing the signs – so please get in touch if you can lend a hand!
Over the coming days, we hope you enjoy the information through the Winds of Change and that you get out there and test your plant identification skills!