Ethnobotany and Ethnoecology Books

Nancy Turner’s Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples , Food Plants of Interior First Peoples, and Plant Technologies of First Peoples in British Columbia provide an unsurpassed collection of ethnobotanical texts for British Columbia that have a great deal of relevance to foraging in the Pacific Northwest.  

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Earth’s Blanks by Nancy Turner is a book filled with Indigenous wisdom and teachings on sustainable living. 

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 Ethnobotany of Western Washington by Erna Gunther. Originally published in 1945, this book draws from her life’s work interviewing Salish and Makah elders.  An indispensable resource to anyone seriously interested in the ethnobotany of this region.

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The Feast is Rich by Carol Batdorf is an amateur ethnobotany of the Coast Salish in Western Washington with an emphasis on the Lummi Nation.

Limited Availability from the Whatcom County Museum

 Native American Ethnobotany, Native American Food Plants,and Native American Medicinal Plants by Daniel Moerman (see searchable online database) attempt to catalogue all the primary ethnobotanical accounts on this continent.  These works provide excellent starting places for further ethnobotanical reading.

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Cedar, Indian Fishing, and Artifacts of Northwest Coast Indians are written and illustrated by Hilary Stewart.  These books are about the material culture and technology of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest.  

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 The People of Cascadia by Heidi Bohan is a wonderful author-illustrated book on the history of the Pacific Northwest Native Americans.

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Nch’i-Wana “The Big River”: Mid-Columbia Indians and Their Land by Eugene Hunn is an ethnography that includes a chapter devoted to the food of the Native Americans living along the Middle reaches of the Columbia River.  It is based on years of careful and collaborative work with Sahaptin elders.

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Keeping it Living: Traditions of Plant Use and Cultivation on the Northwest Coast of North America edited by Douglas Deur and Nancy Turner is an academic examination of how Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest sustainably managed plant food resources.
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Tending the Wild by M. Kat Anderson tells the fascinating story of how California Native Americans managed plants, communities, and entire landscapes to sustainably produce food and fiber.  A revolutionary book in anthropology and a must read for foragers of acorns and bulbs.

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Clam Gardens by Judith Williams describes the Indigenous system of constructing and managing productive clam gardens.  Williams is not an academic and her relationships with some of the Native Americans and scholars who she interviewed are strained, but it remains the only book on this fascinating subject.

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Traditional Plant Foods of Canadian Indigenous Peoples by Harriet Kuhnlein and Nancy Turner is very difficult to find in print but there is an extensive preview available on GoogleBooks.  This book includes plant descriptions, black and white photographs, ethnobotanical uses, and tables with nutritional information.  While species coverage is for Canada, it is very pertinent to the Pacific Northwest.  This is the best researched book available that covers both the ethnobotany and nutrition of numerous food plants.

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For a thorough list of (mainly academic) books and articles related to Coast Salish Culture, see Brian Thom’s Website hosted by the University of Victoria, Department of Anthropology.

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