Western Cherokee Ethnoecology and Wild Plant Classification in the Oklahoma Ozarks

Date and Time: 
Friday, 13 April, 2012 - 16:30 to 16:50
Nolan, Justin M. (University of Arkansas)
Shawna Cain (University of Arkansas, Cherokee Nation)
Roger Cain (University of Arkansas, Cherokee Nation)
John Richard Stepp (University of Florida)

This paper examines the classification, cognition, and cultural value of wild edible flora among members of rural Cherokee-speaking communities in the Ozark foothills of Northeast Oklahoma. Drawing from ethnoscientific data collected over four years of fieldwork in three Cherokee Nation communities, our study illustrates how local plant foods are named, discussed, gathered, prepared, consumed, understood, and appreciated by rural Cherokees with intimate practical knowledge of foraging grounds, primarily watersheds, disturbed habitats and riparian zones.  We also illustrate the relationship between Cherokee language use and the forms of ecological knowledge expressed in cultural models of plant seasonality, relevance, availability, and abundance.  The project culminates with an applied case-study example of how linguistic and ecological diversity can be mapped on a regional scale.