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Learn about Cherokee plants at ethnobotany conference

04/05/2012
April 02, 2012
Cherokee Nation Natural Resources Director Pat Gwin discusses a plant with Cathy Monholland, tribal history and cultural curriculum specialist, in preparation for Cherokee Nation’s second annual Ethnobotany Conference. The conference will be held May 24 and 25.
Cherokee Nation Natural Resources Director Pat Gwin discusses a plant with Cathy Monholland, tribal history and cultural curriculum specialist, in preparation for Cherokee Nation’s second annual Ethnobotany Conference. The conference will be held May 24 and 25.

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation is hosting its second annual Ethnobotany Conference in May for anyone interested in learning about local plants and trees that are of cultural importance to the Cherokee. The two-day conference starts on Thursday, May 24 at 10:30 a.m. at the tribe’s W.W. Keeler Complex, 17675 S. Muskogee Ave., and concludes on Friday, May 25 with a guided nature walk near Rocky Ford north of Tahlequah.

“The purpose of our ethnobotany conference is to increase awareness and appreciation of Cherokee plants, which traditionally provided Cherokees with not only food but medicines, as well,” said Cathy Monholland, history and cultural curriculum specialist for the Cherokee Nation.  

“Many people have the interest but not the expertise regarding these plants, so our aim is to teach people more about the plants that are still so important in Cherokee life, and our nature walk is intended to let people see some of these plants in their natural habitat.”

On Thursday, guest speaker Clint Carroll will highlight the numerous contemporary challenges facing people who are trying to preserve Native American environmental knowledge and practices in his talk, “What We Know About Things that Live in the Wild: Cherokee Environmental Knowledge Through Time.”  

Carroll is a postdoctoral associate in American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities and has worked as an environmental and natural resources technician for Cherokee Nation. His talk will take place in the Tribal Council Chambers at Cherokee Nation’s main complex in Tahlequah starting at 10:30 a.m.

Following Carroll’s talk, Tony and Carra Harris, will present “If Plants Could Talk: A Cherokee Relationship,” starting at 1:30 p.m. The Harrises are master gardeners with one of the largest collections of Cherokee-significant plants in the nation. During the presentation, Tony Harris will discuss how Cherokee plants were used prior to the Trail of Tears for medicine, food, shelter, weapons, tools and ceremonial purposes. Carra Harris will then present ideas and resources on how to start your own Cherokee garden.

On Friday, participants can experience Cherokee plants and trees firsthand during a guided nature walk. Weather permitting, a bus will pick up participants in front of the Restaurant of the Cherokees in Tahlequah and transport them to tribal property in the Rocky Ford area where the conference presenters and representatives of the tribe’s Natural Resources department will point out some of the real-life plants discussed during the conference. The walk will take approximately two hours, after which participants will receive a lunch break before returning to Tahlequah. Suggested attire for nature walk participants includes closed-toe shoes that can get wet, pants and long-sleeve shirts. Bug spray is recommended.

“We take participants places where you can see plants growing that you normally wouldn’t find in a suburban setting,” said Cherokee Nation Natural Resources director and nature walk guide Pat Gwin. “It’s a natural Ozark stream setting so it really closely resembles the environment the Cherokees would have had back east.”

The conference is free and open to the public. Transportation for the nature walk will be on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information about the Cherokee Nation Ethnobotany Conference contact Monholland at 918-453-5389
Cherokee Nation News Release

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