Tribes of the Southwest & their connections to ethnobotany

Carrie Cannon
Proposal Type: 
Live 75 minute session - which includes 6 speakers/discussant timeslots.
Session Date and Time: 
Thursday, 13 May, 2021 - 10:45 to 12:00

This session will be centered around tribal people in the southwest and their views of ethnobotany and how the connection to plants solidifies the cultural connection to mother earth as well as traditional beliefs. Topics covered can be plant uses be it medicinal, mechanical, and edible varieties, traditional language about plants, astronomy connections to plant life and cultural beliefs centered around plant life such as songs and dances. This session will invite attendees to learn about these views from Native people of the southwest and those that work closely with the tribes in the areas of ethnobotany, anthropology, and archeology.

Presentation format: 
Oral (live)
, Jorigine - Hualapai Tribe

The Hualapai, like many Tribes, lost a significant amount of our traditional homelands, and lifeways through the colonization efforts of the last two centuries.  Many of the elders in the community are from a generation that was the last to experience the traditinal lifeways growing up.  Much of the languae and ethnobotanical work I particpate in, in the community is through our Hualapai Ethnobotany Youth Project where we have a fieldtrip oriented, harvesting based program focused on traditional knowledge and tribal language transmission.  Undertanding where plants grow, harvesting seasons, useable plant parts, and processing methodologies are all significant components to the programming we provide to keep the ethobotanical knowledge vital.  In being a lifelong teacher in the community, I have used traditional forms of singing to transmit crucial Hualapai knowledge. In this presentation I will share the value of Hualapai song as a traditional teaching tool.

Presentation format: 
Oral (live)
, Wendy - Desert Botanical Garden
, Andrew - Desert Botanical Garden

Research on the significance of agaves to indigenous peoples in the Borderlands region reveals that pre-contact farmers grew at least six or more domesticated agaves in Arizona. Because of their longevity and asexual reproduction, relict agave clones have persisted in the landscape to the present, providing an opportunity to study pre-Columbian nutrition, trade, migration and agricultural practices as well as domesticates unchanged since they were last cultivated within a prehistoric cultural context. Several of these unique multi-useful plants grow together at many sites that occur in different ecological, climatological and biogeographical regions inhabited by different cultures, including Huhugam, Patayan, Sinagua and Ancestral Puebloan peoples. Our research emphasizes the need to view landscapes and plant species from a potentially cultural, rather than “natural,” perspective that may help discern potential cryptic species veiled by traditional taxonomic treatments. Understanding these plants and their ecological/cultural roles requires interdisciplinary collaboration.

Presentation format: 
Oral (live)
, David

Archaeologists are largely responsible for documenting the “cultural” significance of places. Archaeology, however, is just one aspect of site significance. In the semi-arid southwestern US, water-sources, such as springs, and the biodiversity supported by them, have attracted human presence and cultivation behavior for over 10,000 years, resulting in archaeology and increased biodiversity. As an archaeologist, I first became aware of the cultural significance of water-sources and biodiversity while working with traditional Paiute elders in southwest Utah. That work inspired me to return to school at Northern Arizona University to better learn Indigenous perspectives about the importance of the natural world. Supported by the Bureau of Land Management at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, I visited about 75 semi-arid springs over two seasons, recorded plants of traditional edible, medicinal, craft, and ceremonial significance, documented archaeology, and compared data with upland places. The results demonstrate important relationships between water, biodiversity, and archaeology.

Presentation format: 
Oral (live)
, Carrie - Hualapai Tribe

Hualapai Tribal Elder, the late Malinda Powskey was a prominent keeper of the tribal plant knowledge. She grew up near Wikieup AZ where the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts converge.  Here she learned harvesting wild plants and the traditional gardening practices.  "Stubborn, that's the word for me," Powskey once said about herself. "I ran away from the boarding school at Fort Apache when I was thirteen.  Walked for three days. Then I went to Kingman High--there were hardly any Indians there then. I raised my kids, and then I went to college. I only finished because I am stubborn."  Malinda was also a former Tribal Council Member, taught K-12 for over a decade at the reservation school where she co-authored ten bilingual publications that were written for the Hualapai/Bilingual education program which feature a rich ethnobotanical curriculum in the 1970's-2000.  This presentation honors her memory and contributions to language and ethnobotanical revitalization.