Pre-schoolers and children from the Elementary Chinuk Language Program had a great day digging up bulbs at the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde nursery in early November.
The Natural Resources Department tribal nursery is part of the “Plants for People” project, funded by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, which is improving access to culturally important plants for tribal members and restoration projects on tribal lands and elsewhere.
The nursery is proving to be a great educational resource, as it helps bring chinuk wawa alive for the children. Teacher Ali Holsclaw has been bringing her class during the year so that the children can follow the progress of the native plants that are growing in the raised beds. They have been learning about great camas (lakamas, Camassia leichtlinii), and its importance to their culture. For example, the nutritious bulb was traditionally cooked in large earth ovens for 1-3 days before eating, drying, or pressing into cakes, which stored well for the winter, and for traveling and trading.
The bulbs were harvested for planting at a prairie at Herbert Farm and Natural Area, near Corvallis – the area was historically an important food gathering area for the Kalapuya people, but tribal connections have been lost and natural habitats degraded through conversion to agriculture. IAE is helping partner agencies (City of Corvallis, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Bonneville Power Administration and US Fish and Wildlife Service) restore the property, and the Plants for People project is integral in the process, particularly in bringing culturally important plants to the site.
On November 3rd, a keen group of volunteers planted the camas, in addition to extra bulbs collected from the Corvallis Plant Materials Center, and Gairdner’s yampah (sawash-lakHarat, Perideridia gairdneri), also harvested from the tribal nursery. Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa), grown at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, was also planted to attract Monarch butterflies.
“Participating in the Plants for People project was a wonderful experience,” said Deborah Clark, IAE’s Board Secretary. “Planting camas under sunny skies on a crisp fall day, enjoying the company of other volunteers, and making a positive difference in native habitat restoration – what could be better!”
“The nice thing about this project is that we are combining cultural and ecological elements into restoration”, says Peter Moore, IAE restoration ecologist. “Hopefully in the future, tribal members will be able to harvest plants here.”
For previous stories on the Plants for People project see:
Photos by Jeremy Ojua (Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde) and Peter Moore (IAE).