Uses of Plants by the Hidatsa of the Northern Plains

Uses of Plants by the Hidatsa of the Northern Plains

Uses of Plants by the Hidatsa of the Northern Plains

Uses of Plants by the Hidatsa of the Northern Plains

Excerpt

Gilbert L. Wilson’s ethnobotanical project had its origins in his collaboration with Professor Josephine Tilden of the Botany Department at the University of Minnesota. At her behest, in the summer of 1916 Wilson collected examples of plants used by the Hidatsas and the purposes for which they had been used. Tilden and her students planned to identify them and compile the information into a text. Although Tilden did send a student along with Wilson (a man identified only as “Haupt”) to do some of the collection and field preparation of specimens, for unknown reasons the project was never completed and the plant specimens have been lost. Wilson, for his part, recorded what Buffalobirdwoman and her brother, Wolf Chief, had to say about various plants and their uses. Their recollections and associations make this text unlike any ethnobotanical monograph.

Wilson had already spent parts of ten summers at Fort Berthold Reservation in west-central North Dakota, almost all of that time with Buffalobird-woman, Wolf Chief, and Buffalobirdwoman’s son, Goodbird, acting as interpreter. Wilson also became an adopted son of Buffalobird-woman, and thus they were all members of the Prairie Chicken clan.

The accounts of different plants tend to vary immensely according to the significance of the plants to the speaker and according to their recollections of them. Wilson apparently had no particular agenda other than to write down what they had to say about whatever plants they thought important enough to mention. I have added information on plants that Wilson had transcribed in other years and a section on wood. Wood was perhaps the . . .

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