Cultivating camas connections

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Kathryn Matthews

Publication Date:

Camassia quamash (common camas) is a facultative wetland hydrophyte with significant cultural ties to many tribes and first nations across western North America. It was particularly important due to its edibility and abundance. Historically, camas harvests were an opportunity for indigenous peoples to trade and interact, both within and between different indigenous groups. Camas remains culturally significant with many groups still digging, harvesting, and baking bulbs and incorporating the plant in traditional diets and cultural practices. Camas requires specific habitat characteristics to ensure a suitably wet growing season. In the 19th century, federal land policies removed many tribes and nations from their ancestral homelands and transferred ownership of those lands to settlers. Ultimately, agricultural land use proved destructive to wetland prairies. The decline of these camas prairies was not only a loss of valuable ecosystem function, but also reduced and degraded a culturally significant landscape. The focus of this work is the Weippe Prairie, an important traditional harvest site for the Nez Perce people. Prior to its designation as a site of Nez Perce National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park Service, agricultural conversion and associated land use practices significantly altered and degraded Weippe Prairie’s wetland characteristics. I will present site specific strategies to increase success of camas-focused restoration projects, advance landscape restoration goals, and reassert cultural presence on the landscape. Research and management strategies are driven by the significance of this plant and its unique ability to connect people across backgrounds, cultures, research subjects, and disciplines.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Society for Ecological Restoration