"Salmonberry Bird and Goose Woman: Birds, Plants and People in Indigenous Peoples’ Narratives and Traditions in Northwestern North America”

Turner, Nancy J. , Hakai Chair of Ethnoecology, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria
Jonaki Bhattacharyya, Post-doctoral Fellow, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria

Birds and plants are major components of biocultural diversity in the world. Both are recognized and named in virtually every language and feature in countless ways in people’s systems of knowledge, practice and belief as sources of food, materials, medicines and as ceremonial and religious symbols. However, these two major biological groups are also linked together, and their ecological associations are likewise reflected in cultural knowledge systems. In northwestern North America, there are many examples of the intersection of botanical and ornithological knowledge, reflected in people’s vocabulary, narratives, belief systems and management practices. Here we provide diverse illustrations of this intersection in cultural knowledge of plant-bird associations. These examples link together observations of bird habits and habitats with particular plant species, and show how this complex integrated knowledge and experience have helped promote cultural richness and well-being for First Peoples of the region. Bird species from swans to hummingbirds and plants from edible root vegetables to nectar-producing flowers are exemplified as major representatives of ecocultural connections. Using these as lessons on the importance of interspecies ties to environmental and cultural integrity is a key to sustainable living into the future.