Project to map traditional medicinal plants

Two Assiniboine Community College instructors have secured a $25,000 grant from Manitoba Conservation to document medicinal Aboriginal plant species in southwestern Manitoba.

The grant, funded through the Sustainable Development Innovations Fund, will allow the use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to inventory and document medicinal lands that are important to Aboriginal communities in Manitoba.

The identification and location of medicinal plant species is not only important to the Aboriginal communities in this region, such as the Dakota, Ojibwa, Cree, and Métis, but also to the conservation community. With this knowledge captured by ACC students, the college hopes that Aboriginal communities will be empowered to take ownership of their lost, forgotten and at one time forbidden teachings.

Students and staff from the School of Agriculture & Environment will work alongside those from the School of Health & Human Services to complete the project.

“This project will provide an opportunity for our students from different programs and schools of study to work together on a very important part of our cultural heritage in this province,” said Nicole Rabe, instructor, GIS Environmental Technologies.

Rabe and instructor Leona McIntyre will start project planning this academic year. Elders will also be consulted in an interview process as part of Aboriginal Community Development programming in the new year to identify the type and location of commonly used medicinal plant species.

The instructors hope to hire two ACC co-operative education students in 2009 to work together in the field and carry out the geospatial medicinal inventory in Spruce Woods Provincial Park. This park is situated on the Assiniboine Delta aquifer and has a high level of biodiversity due to the geomorphology of the region.

“The importance of traditional ecological knowledge has been a part of the Aboriginal livelihood for thousands of years,” said Leona McIntyre, instructor, Aboriginal Community Development.

“As Aboriginal people, we are given the gift of being guardians of mother earth and by respecting the land, we are teaching our children the importance of understanding the medicines and their uses. This is a very exciting project and by combining the resources between two different programs and faculties, we can truly say that we are protecting our future.”

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