Indigenous Ethnobotany: The Relationship Between Threatened Species, Relative, and Resource for the Odawa

Authors: Natasha Myhal*, University of Colorado Boulder
Topics: Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: Indigenous ethnobotany, political ecology, Indigenous governance
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 39
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The stories and memories of more-than-humans are embedded in the lives of the Odawa. Odawa knowledge underscores the importance of political activities that support the right to fish, and thus inform the health of Indigenous peoples and their ecosystems. Together, my dissertation draws from Indigenous political ecology and ethnobotany to understand the association between plants and animals and how the meanings of both extend towards Odawas’ understandings of themselves. All of these concerns are complicated through the history and enduring structure of settler colonialism. Ethnobotany formed out of a response to “save” Native knowledge, otherwise known as salvage anthropology (Hunn 2004, Turner 2014, Berkes 2008). This legacy relegated Indigenous peoples as cultures that needed “saving” through documenting their animal and plant knowledge systems. Colonial framings of Indigenous botanical knowledge made Indigenous peoples known, at the same time working with the Empire that sought to obtain space and resources, thus stealing those resources for themselves (Simpson 2014). To draw from ethnobotany and Indigenous political ecology, my project creates a space for human relationships with flora and fauna, with attention to Indigenous governance structures that necessitate a deep respect for these systems. Through my study of Odawa-nmé (Lake Sturgeon) relationships, my project will trace the political nature of nmé in Odawa daily lives and what the reemergence of nmé knowledge means for addressing environmental change impacts on other more-than-humans. This situation illustrates how a close study of Odawa local expertise provides new insights into how Odawa experience and interpret environmental change.

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