Songhees elder Sellemah will welcome residents to her traditional homeland at Windsor Park before guests delve into the sacred plant life in the boundaries of Oak Bay.
Friends of Uplands Park and the Oak Bay Heritage Commission offer the perspective of the The Sacred and Healing Plants of Uplands Park. Renowned Canadian ethnobotanist Nancy Turner will speak about the plants in Uplands Park that have been important to the Songhees culture over many centuries.
“For First Nations, plants and animals are considered to be entities that are like our relatives. They’re considered as equal to humans so it’s a different kind of perspective of plants and animals. They’re treated with, I’d say, more respect than many people elsewhere would treat plants,” Turner said. “Everything, all the plants there in the park are really special for the people of the Songhees Nation.”
Her example: First Nations traditionally would almost ask permission, and certainly give thanks, to cut down or use a portion of a tree. Plants have always been used by First Nations. The underground portion of liquorice fern is used to treat coughs and sore throats. Willow bark is the original source of aspirin, used as a pain killer and to treat fevers.
“You can’t really separate out the healing properties of plants that are eaten as well,” Turner said. “For example, rose hips are a great source of vitamin C and they would have been a good source of food in the winter.”
She’ll even offer perspective on how those cultures maintained their lands.
“The whole Uplands park area was culturally important for the Songhees people especially. They would have used the entire area. It’s a place where they would have harvested camas,” Turner said.
The early families likely used controlled burns on occasion to keep those camas meadows productive. “They used what they would call cold fires, ground fires, to keep down the shrubs and brush.”
The Sacred and Healing Plants of Uplands Park will be held Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. in the upstairs meeting room at Windsor Park Pavilion. Early arrival is recommended as seating is limited. Donations are welcome.
“It’s really important for all of us to realize that where we’re living now in Victoria has been human habitat for thousands and thousands of years,” Turner said. “There are lots of lessons we can learn, I think, from the way people have lived in the past.”