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  • Writer's pictureRose BDW

Indigenous Ethnobotany Books To Read This Month

For #nativeamericanheritagemonth here are some books featuring the relationships between Indigenous people and the beautiful plants of our world! These books not only showcase Indigenous ethnobotany in action but also what is being cooked, shared, and loved by Indigenous peoples across the nation.

Iwígara: The Kinship of Plants and People by Enrique Salmón

The belief that all life-forms are interconnected and share the same breath—known in the Rarámuri tribe as iwígara—has resulted in a treasury of knowledge about the natural world, passed down for millennia by native cultures. Ethnobotanist Enrique Salmón builds on this concept of connection and highlights 80 plants revered by North America’s indigenous peoples. Salmón teaches us the ways plants are used as food and medicine, the details of their identification and harvest, their important health benefits, plus their role in traditional stories and myths. Some of these plants include; Birch (Betula spp.), Chili pepper (Capsicum spp.), Echinacea (Echinacea spp.), Horsetail (Equisetum spp. ) , Saguaro (Carnegiea giganteai) and much much more! There is a broad range of plants included not just for food but tools, medicine, and other properties. The habitat range is vast so this is a pretty biodiverse look at an array of plants!

Salmón is of the Raramuri (Tarahumara) peoples. He is the head of the American Indian Studies Program at Cal STate University East Bay in California.

Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science by Jessica Hernandez

An Indigenous environmental scientist breaks down why western conservationism isn’t working–and offers Indigenous models informed by case studies, personal stories, and family histories that center the voices of Latin American women and land protectors.

Despite the undeniable fact that Indigenous communities are among the most affected by climate devastation, Indigenous science is nowhere to be found in mainstream environmental policy or discourse. And while holistic land, water, and forest management practices born from millennia of Indigenous knowledge systems have much to teach all of us, Indigenous science has long been ignored, otherized, or perceived as “soft”–the product of a systematic, centuries-long campaign of racism, colonialism, extractive capitalism, and delegitimization.

Hernandez is Maya Ch'orti' and Zapotec and founder of environmental agency Piña Soul an environmental consulting business that supports Black and Indigenous-led conservation and environmental projects through community mutual aids and sustainability.

The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen By Shawn Sherman (Sioux) and Beth Dooley

Named one of the best cookbooks of the year by NPR, The Village Voice, Smithsonian Magazine, UPROXX, New York Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Mpls/St. Paul Magazine and others.

The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen is a rich education and delectable introduction to modern indigenous cuisine of the Dakota and Minnesota territories, with a vision and approach to food that travels well beyond those borders.

This book has delectable recipes as well as central tenants of how Indigenous peoples approach food. Not only does it allow for experimentation in the kitchen but encourages people to get on the land and have a deeper, more meaningful relationship with their food.

Tawǎw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine By Shane M. Chartrand (Metis Mi'kmaw)

tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine, a book that traces Chartrand’s culinary journey from his childhood in Central Alberta, where he learned to raise livestock, hunt, and fish on his family’s acreage, to his current position as executive chef at the acclaimed SC Restaurant in the River Cree Resort & Casino in Enoch, Alberta, on Treaty 6 Territory.

Containing over seventy-five recipes ― including Chartrand’s award-winning dish “War Paint” ― along with personal stories, culinary influences, and interviews with family members, tawâw is part cookbook, part exploration of ingredients and techniques, and part chef’s personal journal.

This book is not only a recipe book but a collection of rich storytelling and connection among Indigenous peoples in what is now Canada.

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