Thursday, July 23, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A course in First Nations history and plant associations, BC Ferries has a long term idea for the North Coast and The World comes ashore to Prince Rupert, some of the highlights of the Wednesday edition of the Daily News.

ETHNO-BOTANY PROVIDES OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN CULTURE-- A Northwest Community College course, which combines First Nations history with the study of plants that are found in the Northwest provides for an interesting combination. The Daily News outlined the details of the Ethno-Botany class offered by the college and how it is having an impact on learning more about First Nations culture. (see story below)

BC Ferries floats the potential of better connections to Vancouver, a move that could benefit tourism in the Northwest, not to mention offer local residents another travel option in their efforts to visit the Lower Mainland. (see story here)

Prince Rupert Harbour gets a little more traffic on Thursday as the World arrives for a port call, a luxury residence of the seas, the cruise vessel features 165 private residences aboard, taking its residents to places beyond the horizon of the seas. The ship will be in town at the same time as the regular port visit of the Norwegian Star, the World makes but one trip to Rupert this year, leaving before midnight for other ports and other scenic vistas.

The Sports page offers up a call for more junior golfers, as the Junior Jubilee once again struggles to round out a roster for this weekends tournament. A preview of those that are confirmed is provided as well as some observations on the state of the junior game.

Sports editor/reporter Patrick Witwicki outlines his summer plans for his faithful followers, or one plan at any rate, his upcoming marriage, but a mere ten days away. Stand by for the car honking and confetti blizzards...

Total pages in the Wednesday paper (14)

Front page, headline story:

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Pages one and five

For students like the Sampsons, it's a perfect union.

As they picked plants and recounted their names in Sm'algyax, it became apparent to married couple, Dwayne (43) and Allison Sampson (35) that they were doing more than just learning names in order to pass a class. They were coming closer to an integral part of their history as Aboriginals on the North Coast.

The Tsimshian names for the herbs and berries for nonnatives might seem different -- Ts'uga'aamm, miiya mam, wal, sa'mn, but when given their English names, licorice root, sword fern, yellow cedar, sitka spruce, it becomes more clear. For First Nations here the opposite would have been the case - English names not making much sense _ but English supplanted Sm' algyax some years ago as the main conversational dialect.

Through Judy Thompson's Northwest Community College Ethno-Botany class, post-secondary students from around Prince Rupert are getting the chance to understand a little about their culture, linguistic pasts and current surroundings. .

The functional part of the course is to give students an opportunity to learn about the different kinds of plant life that are found in and around Kaien Island, of which there are plenty of good picking areas. But Thompson has married the curriculum to the Sm'algyax names provided by elders, Tina Robinson and Velna Nelson, which give the class a more potent learning concoction.

"To me, I think it is extremely important to learn about our history," said Allison. "For too long our history was taken from us and we didn't have the opportunity to learn about how we could use the land and about our culture."

Thompson, a member of the TahItan nation in Northern B.C., hopes that her class gives students a brief window into their past.

"I grew up in the area and the one thing I didn't know that I have been learning over the last five years is that students find out a lot" about food and their connection to land when they learn the Tsimshian name," said Thompson.

But it is also a chance to learn about the practical uses the plants have. Some plants obviously carry berries on their branches, which can be seen being picked and bagged around town from early spring until late fall. But there are also plants that have medical purposes like the common juniper (laxsa'nax'nox in Sm'algyax), good for colds when used as tea.

Thompson has also produced a book about the plants used by Gitga'at people of Hartley Bay. The book, 'Nwana'a laxYuup, documents the use and importance of plants and the environment to the" Gitga'at people, who had used some of the herbs and berries for thousands of years. The book is very specific with regards to use, all three names (Sm' algyax, English and scientific) and pictures to help identify.

The class began two weeks ago and the Daily News joined the students on their second field trip, following Robinson and Nelson around to hear them speak about the history and names of local fruits and herbs.

At times students would point out a plant by its English name and either Nelson or Robinson would identify it in Sm' algyax. At others they would already know the plant by its Tsimshian name - a success for Thompson's pupils. The Sampsons agree.

"Our culture has always been there, but we just have to exercise it. A lot of people say its gone and forgotten about," said Dwayne. .

While his wife concurred, Allison felt this knowledge could have another interesting use.

"You can't starve out here, there are so many vegetables and fruits. If you know how to eat, you never would need another cent in your life."

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