More from Naomi Michalsen on respectful harvesting

A child harvesting salmonberries. (Photo by Jeff Bringhurst)

As part of a group called the Kayaani Sisters Council, Naomi Michalsen helped develop a free guide for people who want to learn to sustainably and respectfully gather local plants. In May, Michalsen spoke with KTOO’s Chloe Pleznac about respectful harvesting. 

In last week’s Garden Talk, Michalsen talked about some of the basic principles of respectful harvesting. This week, she talks about some of her favorite books and resources — but also why it’s important to learn directly from experts.  

“Plants can teach us a lot,” she said. “We can look at plants as our relatives and our family. And when we look at things that way, it helps us when we think about how we want to treat this area or these plants.”

Michalsen said caring for the plants you harvest is important. That could mean cleaning the areas around them or being an advocate or steward for the land. For Michalsen, gratitude plays an important role.

“Always just, you know, leaving a gift for the plants. Some people also leave a strand of hair, they might leave some tobacco, they might leave a gift or a song or say thanks,” she said. “But part of that is just being present in the moment and being aware of your surroundings and appreciative of everything that we have.”

Michalsen said one of her favorite resources on harvesting is Haa Atxaayí Haa Kusteeyíx Sitee, Our Food Is Our Tlingit Way of Life, an oral history project that focuses on traditional Lingít food and culture

She also recommends the books of Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon, and a book called Plant Teachings for Growing Social-Emotional Skills, Alaska Edition

But Michalsen stresses that going out with an expert is crucial to staying safe and learning to properly identify plants. 

“If we’re only relying on the internet or books, we can get ourselves into trouble,” she said. “We might be missing a lot of what the messages and the teachings are of each of these plants.” 

A free, printable version of the Respectful Harvesting Guidelines is available on the University of Alaska Fairbanks website. Michalsen acknowledged the other contributors to the project: Trixie Bennett of Ketchikan, Louise Brady of Sitka, Eva Burk of Nenana, Tia Holley of Soldotna, Gloria Simeon of Bethel, and Disney Williams of Juneau.

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