Okla. In late February, Cherokee Nation Natural Resources
acting director Pat Gwin gave a presentation at the Tribal Complex
focusing on certain wild plants and their significance to Cherokee
history and culture.
said many Cherokee elders remember venturing into the woods with
their parents and families to gather necessities, which included
food and medicines the wild plants provided.
lot of this knowledge has been forgotten. Unfortunately, with each
passing elder more and more is forgotten, he said.
has worked for the CN for the last 18 years, the last 10 with Natural
Resources. He has a biology degree from Northeastern State University
said Natural Resources has devoted years to gathering valuable morsels
of information from Cherokee elders to pass on to other Cherokees
about different trees and plants, their uses and significance.
not an expert in Cherokee ethnobiology, Gwin said. The
experts in Cherokee ethnobiology say there are no experts.
Cherokee ethnobiology is something that his department is using
to help in culture revitalization, health benefits, genetic preservation
is a controversial topic that has lots of different definitions,
but our definition today is were going to be dealing with
plants that have cultural ties to the Cherokee Nation, he
Cherokee tribe and most other North American tribes had their own
way of using science to find uses for plants, he said.
to European influence, Cherokees and basically all North
American Indigenous peoples had a system that a lot of western
science European influence would say is primitive. But its
not primitive; its different, Gwin said. Their
system was very natural science-based as opposed to physical science-based.
There was no separating the natural environment from the everyday
ethnobiology program the department is working on is its popular
seed bank program.
is the time of year were actually giving these seeds away,
Gwin said. We raise about 20 different varieties of heirloom
plants: corns, beans, squashes, tobaccos and rare trees.
of the plants have ties all the way back to North Carolina, which
is the Cherokee tribes original tribal homeland, he said.
have a lot of Cherokees that no longer have ties to the Cherokee
Nation, Gwin said. They live way off and they have this
longing to belong to the Cherokee Nation. We have a lot of California
Cherokees that grow these crops and send them back to us.
department grows its garden using and producing the heirloom seeds
west of the CN Tribal Council House. It began distributing seeds
earlier this year for the program.
where every seed that we started with (was grown,) Gwin said.
than 6,000 seed packets were mailed to CN citizens throughout the
United States and other areas last year.