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category: Social Science
published: May 2000
publisher: Canadian Forest Service

Aboriginal Plant Use in Canada's Northwest Boreal Forest

New Edition

by Marles, Robin

tagged: native american studies, botany


This handbook describes the traditional uses by aboriginal people of more than 200 different plants from Canada's boreal forest. It is the result of original ethnobotanical fieldwork in 29 communities across the boreal forest region of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Natural resources of the boreal forest have always been essential to the dietary, medical, economic, and spiritual well-being of First Nations people, but until now much of their traditional environmental knowledge has remained unrecorded and at risk of being lost.

To compile this book the authors, along with seven other First Nation trainees, five M├ętis trainees, and four other botany students, learned how to collect voucher plant specimens and record traditional knowledge about the use of plants for medicine, handicrafts, technology, and ritual practices. Over 100 elders contributed information that they felt should be shared among communities.

The entries and accompanying photographs are arranged according to the plant family and include information on physical descriptions, habitat, uses for food, technology, medicine, and potential economic use. The book also includes an explanation of the research approach, a literature review, and an overview of the ecological and cultural background of the area.


About the Author

Marles, Robin

Contributor Notes


Robin J. Marles is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Botany Department at Brandon University in Manitoba. He has been conducting research on the traditional uses, chemistry, pharmacology, and sustainable production of medicinal and edible plants for over 20 years.

Christina Clavelle recently completed her Master's degree from the University of Saskatchewan Biology and Anthropology/Archaeology Departments.

Leslie Monteleone is a graduate student in the University of Alberta Botany Department.

Natalie Tays is a member of the Nisichawayasihk First Nation and a school teacher in Nelson House, Manitoba.

Donna Burns is a member of the James Smith First Nation, James Smith 100 Reserve, Saskatchewan, and a former University of Saskatchewan student.


Editorial Review

In addition to gathering botanical data, the original field research also gathered information on ritual uses of plants, the naming and classification of plants in the indigenous languages, beliefs regarding plants, and attitudes toward development of plant sources.

— Biology Digest
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