SCF Hosts First Tikahtnu Plants Symposium

Symposium attendee Rachel Ireton assists Tribal Doctor Lisa Dolchok while making insect repellent during the mock kitchen session at the Tikahtnu Plants Symposium.

Southcentral Foundation hosted the first Tikahtnu Plants Symposium, a mini-conference inspired by the original Plants as Food and Medicine Symposium. The event was held in the Tribal Drum at the Nuka Learning and Wellness Center on Aug. With the backdrop of the indigenous plants growing on the Alaska Native Health Campus and along the nearby trails at University Lake, the foliage complemented the discussions and demonstrations offered throughout the symposium.

Symposium attendees were greeted each day with herbal tea made from local plants. This allowed attendees to experience a variety of ways local plants can be used for nourishment and healing. Attendees also had the opportunity to make items such as salve and insect repellent, both of which can be useful to Alaskans.

A panel, composed of Tribal members from villages within the CIRI region, presented on how to sustain natural resources by connecting culture and environment, while increasing self-sufficiency. They shared best practices and knowledge around Alaska’s nutrient-dense foods, and reviewed ways to engage in more physical activity to improve mental health and well-being. Having presentations on plants and their uses gave attendees an introduction to indigenous knowledge that has been cultivated over generations.

“The symposium created a special space for everyone who participated,” Senior Director of Executive and Tribal Service Division Angela Michaud shared. “It was inspiring to see the RAISE interns engage with Elders — learning from the other and strengthening traditional knowledge. There was a lot of pride as Elders shared story and what was important for the next generation to know. In addition to story, it was fantastic to gain hands-on experience and to see participants using Alaskan plants.”

In addition to the panel discussions, making salves and insect repellent, a plant walk, and mindful movement activities — attendees were able to connect with others, learn, and share knowledge of plants.

SCF’s dedication to promoting and sharing knowledge about indigenous plants is showcased in the healing garden located next to SCF’s Traditional Healing Clinic at the Anchorage Native Primary Care Center. The garden is overflowing with a variety of healing plants including devils club, yarrow, and stinkweed; all of which were highlighted during the symposium. The healing garden can be viewed from the walkway and has signage to help identify the plants.

For more information about the healing garden that Southcentral Foundation maintains at the Alaska Native Primary Care Center, call Traditional Healing Clinic at (907) 729-4958.

by Tara Carey

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