Prairie Island Community and Goodhue County Master Gardeners partnership pays off for both parties – Agweek

WELCH, Minn. ― The Prairie Island community and the Goodhue County Extension Master Gardeners have been working in partnership since 2018, in what began with site visits to identify insect, disease and weed issues in the Prairie Island Community Elders Medicine Garden.

“We came out first to look at some insect disease issues, and we were so impressed with their gardens,” said Nancy Berlin, master gardener at Goodhue County Extension for 11 years.

The partnership has evolved into so much more, with educational exchanges between Prairie Island community members and master gardeners on traditional wisdom, medicinal uses of plants, food sovereignty and more.

“The partnership we’ve had with the Master Gardeners for the past four years has been a very good relationship between the tribe and the town of Red Wing and Goodhue County,” Staudt said. “Gardeners who come here say all the time how much they appreciate the cultural teachings that take place and how they learn things they have never experienced or thought of before from the tribe – that changes life enough.”

Mikhail Childs, a tribal member of the Prairie Island community and volunteer gardener, said his role in the partnership is simply to learn and share what he has learned from his elders and other community members, as well as employees from the Prairie Island community who were hired to re-educate young people about native plants.

“To re-educate on all the knowledge that has been lost – the knowledge of plants and the knowledge of nature,” Childs said. “I’m just an intermediary, as I learn from master gardeners, which has been a tremendous asset to our community, with their experience and knowledge of plants.”

Childs, who has been a volunteer gardener since 2017, said it’s been great to see the master gardeners react to the plants growing in community gardens on Prairie Island.

“They find it so unique and exciting, because we have all of this, what a lot of people might think of as weed, which we know as medicine,” Childs said. “That’s why I volunteer, because I get so much from the program, and just to be with all the people who share what they know, and all I can hope to do is pass on that knowledge. to anyone willing to listen, and hopefully to the next generation.”

According to a quote from an unnamed member of the Prairie Island Community tribe on the sign outside the Prairie Island Community Elder Medicine Garden, many “Dakota and non-Dakota” people once congregated near Prairie Island and of Red Wing during the growing season, due to the “plethora of medicinal plants” growing in the area.

“If Red Wing was the economic hub of our ancestors’ days, Prairie Island was our pharmacy,” Childs said. “The Isle of Grasslands had just had a glut of different kinds of drugs. And I think that’s what’s unique about our position here is that we get the chance to show how all of these drugs special and rare that could be found on the Isle of Grasslands in the time of our ancestors.”

Childs is able to teach members of the Master Gardener program about native Minnesota plants – such as white sage and sweetgrass – and their traditional medicinal uses.

Sweetgrass is a native Minnesota grass that actively grows from spring through fall. Small yellow flowers bloom in mid-summer after the flower has finished blooming, and dark black seeds cover the plant. Sweetgrass has a sweet vanilla scent.

White sage is a perennial herb that grows on several stems from a slender rhizome and, like sweetgrass, also has a very fragrant aroma.

White sage and sweetgrass are grown on the eagle mound in front of the Prairie Island Elders Community Garden.

“There’s white sage on the head and tail, and then sweetgrass grows on the wings,” said Nicole Staudt, grants coordinator for the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership of the Prairie Island Indian Community, of the mound. of eagle.

Sweetgrass can be plaited, Staudt said, and white sage can be harvested for multiple uses. Both plants are used in different tribal ceremonies, she said, as well as medicinal uses.

“We have a few different drugs that we use for purification, and some of them are used for purification, for cleansing,” Childs said. “Others are used to ward off bad energies, and others are believed to promote or attract good energies.”

Each month before meeting with the Goodhue County Master Gardeners program, Staudt tries to highlight some plants that are native to the season at the time.

This month of May, she highlighted the nettles, which were out, as well as the dandelions with a tea she made for the group.

“We harvested dandelion flowers and then also wild violet flowers which add a nice color to the tea,” she said. “All of these are edible and they make a wonderful tea.”

Nettles serve as an antihistamine, Staudt said.

“Nettles are really good to drink in the spring when you have seasonal allergies,” she said. “But they’re also super filling – way more filling than the kale or spinach you could buy at the store.”

Every part of the dandelion flower is edible, Staudt said, and the flowers add a “really lovely sweetness to the honey.”

“Any green part of the plant is a bit more bitter, so if you want to keep that bitterness out of your tea, you can just remove the floral part to use it,” she said. “And a lot of people like to cook with it too.”

Staudt said ingesting dandelion is “wonderful medicine” for the liver.

For Childs, education within the partnership is good for both sides as well as the land.

“All the neighboring communities around us – we are them, and they are us,” Childs said. “We’re just blessed to be guardians of all these special parents – because that’s what they are, plants and nature, is just an extension of us. They’re just vessels that the Creator uses to do His will.”

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