Native People's Garden
The Native People's Garden is intended to serve as a bridge between the scientific and Native approaches.
On the signs that identify the plants, some have four different forms. There is the Latin name of the plant, an English common name, a common name in Cree, and the Cree syllabics. A shelter is provided for educational displays. It will also serve as a resting place, and a place to watch ducks swimming on the water. Growing up and over the shelter is an extremely hardy and vigorous Clematis called "Prairie Travellers Joy" or Clematis ligusticifolia. During the late summer/early autumn, it bears clusters of small white flowers, sometimes just before the first hard frosts.
Some Plants and Their Uses
A Word of Caution - A skilled and thorough knowledge of plant identification is necessary before choosing the correct plant material. Plants that may be similar in appearance may not be the same. So, before trying any plant material, know what you are dealing with. Otherwise, poisoning may result with possible tragic consequences. Moreover, different people may respond differently to the chemicals contained in a plant; one person may safely ingest plant material that will cause illness in another person.
Also, with vast areas of a natural environment disappearing, both due to urbanization, farming and logging, many plant species are now either rare or endangered.
Rosa species were used by Blackfoot and Blood Indians. Blackfoot ate the fruits fresh or roasted after removal of the seeds. In the winter, dried fruits that were still on the plants were used as famine food. Rose hips were used to make necklaces before trade beads were acquired by the Natives. Roots of Rosa species were brewed into a bitter tea that was used in the treatment of diarrhea. Blood Indians made poultices out of the rose hips for boils or mixed with grease, they were eaten with dried meat. Rose hips were also when ripe, thickened with flour and eaten. Rose hips were frozen in the snow and given to children to eat, and made into a decoction for someone with diarrhea. Leaves and fruits were also boiled to cure stomach aches. Thorns were stuck into painful skin and set on fire. The thorn burned down and a blister was left; the burning treatment was meant to cure pain.
Geum triflorum "Old Man's Whiskers" or "Prairie Smoke" or "Three Flowered Avens"
The Blackfoot used the crushed seed pods as a source of perfume, and also as an eyewash. Leaves were also dried, crushed and mixed with other medicine in preparation of a tonic. Roots were boiled in water and the decoction used in treating sore eyes. Blood Indians used the root for sore gums, sore nipples (while nursing), sore eyes and saddle sores. Roots were also dried and brewed for coughs, chicken pox, snow blindness and chapped lips, brewed with fat for children's cankers. Roots were often mixed with other general medicines such as horse medicine; for sores or to make horses gain weight.
Geranium viscosissimum "Sticky Purple Geranium"
The Blood Indian boiled the leaves and the liquid was drunk when cool to cure headaches and children's colds. While boiling the steam was also inhaled for these purposes.
Ledum groenlandicum "Labrador Tea"
Both the Cree and Blackfoot dried and crushed the leaves, which were boiled in water to make a tea. The Cree noted that fresh leaves and twigs could be used as well. The herbal tea was used to treat fever, colds and other general ailments. The Blackfoot also powdered the dried leaves and made an ointment for burns and scalds, while they used the tea as a diuretic and also to induce vomiting.
Smilacina racemosa "False Solomon's Seal"
The Blackfoot Indians powdered the roots and applied it to wounds while the Blood Indians made the leaves into a soup and used them to clear chests. The ends of the leaves were soaked and were used to keep dandruff down and soften hair. They also chewed the roots and then applied them to swollen body parts to prevent itching, especially of appendages that had tight clothing tied around them. The roots were also used for decorations, as well as for inducing abortions.
Vibernum trilobum "High Bush Cranberry"
The Cree Indians used to eat the fruit of the High Bush Cranberry.
Heuchera cylindrica "Alum Root"
The Blackfoot Indians used a decoction of the root as an astringent and it was particularly used in the treatment of diarrhea.