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Weaving together Indigenous wisdom and Western science for a sustainable future – NCSS

Sweetgrass holds a profound significance for the Mi’kmaq people, extending beyond its ecological value. It’s not merely a plant; it’s an integral part of their culture, woven into ceremonies and even offering solace to mental health.

A collaborative project has woven together the wisdom of Mi’kmaq sweetgrass harvesters, The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq (CMM), Unama’Ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR) and NSCC researchers. It explores the art of growing sweetgrass sustainably to make it more accessible to Indigenous communities for the next seven generations.

Learning from Elders and Knowledge Keepers

This partnership has been a harmonious blend of science and tradition, rooted in the concept of Etuaptmumk (Two-Eyed Seeing). NSCC project lead, Rachel Kendall, explains that while she knows the ecology of the plant, she does not have hands-on experience and generational knowledge held by community members who have cultivated, gathered and propagated sweetgrass for centuries.

“Elders and Knowledge Keepers know so much about the growth patterns of this plant,” says Rachel. “In its natural habitat, sweetgrass stands tall. However, when I shared my concern about its shorter growth in garden beds, an Elder offered insight, “It’s missing its friends.” He explained that sweetgrass thrives when it’s surrounded by its fellow grasses, much like in a vibrant saltmarsh ecosystem. “This is something I wouldn’t have thought of without engaging in a meaningful conversation with a community member.”

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