(By Christina Stucker-Gassi, Healthy Food & Farms Program Manager & Sidney Fellows, Program Specialist)
The purpose of this project is to support the rich and complex relationships between the native plant movement and Indigenous knowledge-ways.
Various tribal communities today are adapting and strengthening cultural practices that involve native flora. These practices have historically, and continue to be, impeded by colonial dispossession which has created an issue of tribal access to the native flora that is traditionally used for food, ceremony, and various other cultural practices. Often, traditional food/medicine harvesting areas are hard to access, due to practices such as land privatization and industrialization, in addition to being located off of Indigenous reservations. Environmental degradation through conventional agriculture, industrial contamination, and climate change are among the factors that tribal communities face as they adapt and strengthen their ancestral human-plant interactions.
For the past year this project has aided in restoration and enhancement activities centered around native flora on the Fort Hall Reservation, advancing priorities such as conserving tribal plant knowledge and human-plant interactions, as well as wilderness and wildlands protection; river and wetlands conservation; biological diversity conservation, and Tribal lands management. We are actively increasing capacity to grow this project, which will include new outreach to other tribal communities in western Montana.
The goal of this project is to provide residents of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Southeast Idaho with resources to create their own native plant gardens and to restore degraded or enhance existing foraging sites within the borders of the reservation or nearby. The project is expected to engage tribal youth to strengthen their cultural knowledge and increase access and exposure to traditional foods while harmoniously enhancing wildlife habitat with a focus on unmanaged bees and other endemic pollen and nectar using invertebrates.
We have reserved and are preparing to distribute 300 native plants later this year, and have secured funding for 300 more plants to be distributed next year as well as supplies.
This project includes distributing plants, connecting with the community to further our work, providing installation and maintenance support, as well as creating complementary hands-on learning opportunities. We will be co-hosting a field day with our partners at the Shoshone-Bannock Language and Cultural Preservation Department, and conserving/enhancing at least 30 individual planting sites next year (we’re also planning on at least 30 later this year). We will also explore the potential of mapping culturally relevant plant communities on Shoshone-Bannock Tribal land using GIS, to inform land use decisions such as grazing contracts and development.
We rely on input from one-on-one conversations with project collaborators and beneficiaries, and intentionally build time into our work to seek and receive this sort of feedback. This is because NCAP prioritizes supporting on-the-ground-work in communities centered on needs identified by members of the community. This project is a reflection of that commitment after we were approached by Shoshone-Bannock leadership to expand our on-farm habitat conservation work to parks, homes, and other public spaces to benefit human and non-human relatives. We will continue to prioritize this sort of evaluation process and gauge our impact analysis accordingly.
We thank you for supporting this work!