Science and tradition take root in class
Students were nestled in Medicine Eagle Lodge, Keeseekoowenin First Nations, (near Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba), “harvesting medicine” for credit in an Ethnobotany* class in the summer. This experiential learning course was designed and led by Dr. Shailesh Shukla, Assistant Professor (Department of Indigenous Studies), with support from a local herbalist and two Indigenous Elders from Keeseekoowenin .
“Students from arts and sciences who took this course challenged themselves and learned about plants and our relationships from Indigenous as well as western sciences perspective,” explained Shukla. “The course really demonstrated how traditional disciplinary boundaries — often perceived as barriers to learning — can be converted into teachable opportunities and moments and provide unique experiential learning experiences of lifetime. This is what I would call Social Learning for Sacred Sustainability.”
Students got a first-hand experience of harvesting certain plants like Pineapple weed, Grandfather root, Tamarack bark, and Choke cherry from various habitats, and slept in teepees. Students learned to value Indigenous knowledge systems alongside botanical sciences, which helped them to develop respect for and recognition of traditional medicinal plant knowledge and elders. In four days, students from a variety of disciplines could identify 60 different plants and learned their basic botanical characteristics and medicinal usages described by elders as well as what is reported in ethnobotanical and ethnopharmacological literature. Some Indigenous students found new avenues of reconnecting to their culture, seeing this as a Segway to cultural revitalization.
“I took this course because I’ve been interested in more natural ways of medicine and healing,” explained fourth-year UWinnipeg student Charlene Moore who is studying film and Indigenous studies. “I knew this course would have teachings from elders as well as teachings from a western aspect which I thought would complement each other well. I loved the course. The elders were so generous with their teachings. I learned so much while staying at Medicine Eagle Camp. I had such an amazing experience. I will keep those teachings and memories with me for a lifetime.”
You can view a video from the course at Ethnobotany
*Ethnobotany is the study of the relationships between Indigenous and local communities and plants.
Naniece Ibrahim, Communications Officer, The University of Winnipeg
P: 204.988.7130, E: firstname.lastname@example.org