Ethnobotanist Nancy Turner will visit the islands this week to promote her new book Plants of Haida Gwaii .
Dr. Turner first travelled to the islands in 1971 to study the islands plants, she writes in the book’s preface, and returned several times over the next three years learning about plants and culture of the islands from Haida elders. She grew to love the islands and considered staying here with her husband, but life took her in a different direction.
However, in 1990, she returned to celebrate Florence Davidson’s 95th birthday, and was inspired by old friends and new to finish the work she began in the early 70s. In the early 90s she published a portion of this book as a guide for the Haida Gwaii Watchmen Program. She continued studying the islands plants and their relation to Haida culture, and this book is the result of that work.
Barb Wilson of Gwaii Haanas helped Dr. Turner with her work, and says the experience was awesome. They’ve worked together for 12-14 years, Ms Wilson says, and “my respect for the plants and their place in the world has increased.”
The book is an important teaching tool, says Ms Wilson. “There needs to be a way to teach our young people about the tradition. The book has great photos for identification and connects youth to the knowledge of the elders,” she says.
The two women have also collaborated on the creation of the Qay’llnagaay Heritage Centre’s garden, where plants traditionally used by the Haida people will be cultivated for visitors to learn about this important element of Haida culture.
An ethnobotanist studies the relationship between plants and cultures. Dr. Turner has worked across BC with First Nations people to record their plant knowledge. She has published over 150 books, and been recognized internationally for her work.
Dr. Turner will be at the Haida Rose CafÃ© Friday (July 23) at 7 pm. Dr. Turner will also give a slide presentation Saturday at the United Church in Queen Charlotte at 7:30 pm.
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