Children learn culture through growing plants

Peter Moore, March 2018

Young children got their hands dirty and planted some bulbs and seeds of culturally important species recently at the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde (CTGR) Youth Education Building.

Stacy and Peter Moore from the Institute of Applied Ecology teamed up with Jeremy Ojua of the Tribe’s Natural Resources Department to provide plant propagation workshops for students ranging from preschool to fifth grade.

Jeremy Ojua of CTGR’s Natural Resources Department explains some of the traditional uses of the plants.

Stacy Moore (IAE) helps Ava Kneeland plant her bulbs.

The classes are part of Phase II of the Plants for People project, which aims to engage the tribal community in the restoration of culturally important plants at tribal areas and other restoration sites in the Willamette Valley.  This was a perfect fit for the tribal education program which aims to provide cultural enrichment for members of the CTGR.

A small tribal nursery was established at Grand Ronde during Phase I of the project, and Jeremy brought bulbs of great camas (Camassia leichtlinii), harvest brodiaea (Brodiaea coronaria) and narrowleaf onion (Allium amplectens) from the nursery’s raised beds for the kids to plant.  There were also seeds of showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosum) and common madia (or tarweed, Madia elegans) and cuttings of Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus) and redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea sericea).

Seeds of showy milkweed in paper cups waiting to be planted in the propagation classes.

Bulbs of camas, brodiaea and onion, in paper cups ready for planting.

The children learned about some of the traditional uses of the plants, such as food, medicine and tools, and even toothbrushes, in the case of dogwood sticks.  They also heard about how important milkweed is for Monarch butterflies.

Some of the children had previously followed the progress of the camas being grown at the tribal nursery (see https://appliedeco.org/tribal-nursery-raises-plants-and-awareness/), and one of the parents, Logan Kneeland, had helped plant camas and yampah at Herbert Farm (see https://appliedeco.org/plants-for-people-bringing-traditional-ecological-knowledge-to-restoration/ ). Logan was particularly happy to see his son Logan Jnr. and daughter Ava now learning how to grow camas.

Some quotes for the day from the kids: “Is this enough dirt?” “I really want to plant the onion!” “I’m going to become a really good gardener!”

It was great to see the kids enjoying planting and learning about these culturally important species. To cap the classes off they got to take their plants home, with instructions to water them and transplant them once they get bigger.

The classes were a great success and enjoyed by all.

Many thanks for the support of CTGR’s Natural Resources and Education Departments and funding from Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.

The children from the Chak Chak (Eagles) class filling their pots with soil with the help of their teachers and Peter Moore (IAE).

Jeremy Ojua helping children from the Mawich (Deer) class plant shrub cuttings.

Nikia Mooney (Teacher Aide) helps James Hyatt plant his bulbs.

The kids were happy with the result – pictured: Hadley Kimsey, Marley Smith, Ashley Leno, Bentley Fechtner.

Peter Moore (IAE) helping Wyatt Hubbell and Michael Smith from the Mulak (Elk) class fill their pots.

Stassi Villalobos learning about some of the native plants.

The busy classroom – Danilo Contreras and Logan Kneeland are all smiles while learning about native plants. “I’ve eaten camas before,” said Logan.

Evey Bishop and Ryliee Gonzales get to take their plants home at the end of the class.

Olen Torres and Mason Jerabek proudly show off their potted plants.

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