Cultural Ecosystems on the Nature Trail
by Elise Krohn, Traditional Plants Program Director
Walk on the GRuB nature trail and you will notice the first signs of spring. Lime-green Indian plum leaves light up the woods, and violets carpet damp ground – their delicious purple flowers a signature taste of the changing season. Our staff, youth crew, volunteers, and interns have been establishing native plants along the trail for several years including wild greens, edible berries, and medicinal herbs. We are currently working to establish the nature trail as an outdoor teaching space that features cultural ecosystems including a food forest, a camas prairie mound, and a wetland area.
What are Cultural Ecosystems?
Cultural Ecosystems are distinct habitats that Indigenous People have cultivated relationships with since time immemorial. These habitats are curated using various methods including planting, weeding, pruning, burning, and sustainable harvesting techniques. Cultural Ecosystems suggest eco-evolution of people and place- overtime, the land has shaped the cultural practices of the people, and people have shaped the ecologies of the land. They emphasize that humans are integral to, rather than separate from, the natural world. Remembering, preserving, and participating in these environments reminds us that we can promote healthy ecosystems, as well as human well-being, through conscientious stewardship of the land. GRuB’s Tend, Gather & Grow Curriculum includes a module on cultural ecosystems, and team members Joyce LeCompte and Elise Krohn, as well as Cinnamon Enos from Hancock Forestry, Valerie Segrest from Feed7Generations, and Mackenzie Grinnell from the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, have been working for the last two years on developing a Cultural Ecosystems Field Guide.
Our Nature Trail Team
We have made great progress on developing the nature trail over the last several months thanks to our amazing interns and volunteers! Stephanie Knittel is an Evergreen student who served as an intern last fall and is continuing this winter quarter. She is studying plants including ethnobotany and natural plant dyes and has helped to develop camas prairie plant identification cards. Stephanie is currently researching alder and Oregon grape to develop a lesson on dyes.
Randy Pratt was GRuB's 2018 Farm Crew Coordinator and returned this winter as a Wild Foods and Medicines Program intern. Randy is currently an Evergreen Student studying community resilience and ecology. They are working on researching and co-designing the demonstration food forest on the GRuB nature trail and are excited to gain more familiarity with Cultural Ecosystems and support the work of spreading place-based, culturally-relevant teaching and learning resources through Tend, Gather & Grow. Randy is also helping to develop GRuB's herbal pharmacy and integrate herbal medicine across GRuB programs.
Volunteer Elaynee Eden from Bastyr University helped to map the nature trail and plan the food forest last fall and winter. Several other volunteers including Clare Follmann and Shane Noble have helped with tree trimming, pruning, and weeding. Thanks to Bob Barnes for donating native plants! Please join us March 11th from 3:00 to 5:00pm for a volunteer work party, where you can learn more about cultural ecosystems and sample spring wild foods including chickweed pesto and nettles!