I grew up in this corner of the world, the coastal Pacific Northwest, and did a lot of camping as a kid. One of my most favorite summer memories is picking bright red huckleberries growing on the nurse stumps dotting the campground. I don’t know when I learned the name Huckleberry or her neighbors Sword Fern, Douglas Fir, or Oregon Grape. I’m sure it was from my parents, who had grown up camping in this ecosystem, too, who had learned from their parents or Scout leaders. Those plants have been my friends and teachers as long as I can remember.
Unlike the plants I was taught about and given the opportunity to become friends with, the same can’t be said for the Indigenous people who’s lands those plants evolved on. I knew some of their names, as they had become place names, but as a white kid living in predominantly white communities, my education about native people was limited to learning about how they “used to live,” before white people settled and built “real” cities and states and countries. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I started hearing more often about the vibrant, living traditions of Indigenous people.
I know now that I was living and learning on the lands of the Cowlitz and Clackamas; Chinook, Clatsop, and Kathlamet; Puyallup and Nisqually; and Duwamish and Suqaumish tribes and nations. (Indigenous peoples in the US generally self-identify as tribes, though some groups use nation or band.) Today, I am very grateful to live as a settler on the traditional, unceded territory of the Musqueam, Tsleil Waututh, and Squamish Coast Salish peoples. Fresh Roots also operates on the territories of the Kwikwitlem, Katzie, Sto:lo, and Qayqayt First Nations, and we are continually working to be responsible stewards of this land which is not ours.
(If you’re wondering who’s land you’ve lived on in North or South America, Australia, or New Zealand, you can find out at Native Land.)
Indigenous people have lived and learned from the land and the plants that grow there for thousands of years. If you have the opportunity to learn about your local plants directly from the people who know them the best, seek out and take advantage of that opportunity! But this week, I want to share five ways you can learn more about, and from, plants native to the Vancouver area. I hope it’s a good place to start really getting to know this beautiful part of the world.
Make a Plant Friend
Native Plants in Your Neighbourhood
In Harmony with Nature
Plants are great teachers – get out there and learn from them!