More than just plants

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Graham

I like introducing people to plants they’ve been walking past – sometimes for years –but never really seen or met before,” says Rebecca Graham, facilitator of the Urban Food & Fibre walk, which will be taking place Apr. 14 at Coquitlam Heritage.

Most of us are completely disconnected from nature these days – and even from each other,” says Graham.

Graham says the Urban Food & Fibre walk is meant to show us the marvels that live in our own backyard, not only to connect us with nature, but to also help us realize that we too are a part of nature. She says it’s not just about using plants for food but recognizing that everything that comes from our backyard can be used as a resource.

“We can’t live without fibre any more than we can live without food or shelter,” says Graham, who notes that clothing, rope, fishing lines, nets and baskets are all made with fibre.

She says it’s also important to recognize our impact on the environment; what we do, how we consume and what we take changes our ecosystem. She feels this walk is an opportunity to have conversations about the land we live on and to learn more about it.

“Learning about the plants and our ancestors’ ways of life is how we can reconnect ourselves to the land and also to each other, even across cultural and language differences,” says Graham.

Respect and reciprocity

The Food and Fibre Walk is one of four programs Rebecca Graham is leading this spring at Mackin House. She’s wanted to learn how to weave baskets and eat wild foods ever since she was a child. | Photo courtesy of Rebecca Graham

It’s not just about taking; we have to ask ourselves what we can offer in return, and find ways to reciprocate and give back,” says Graham.

She explains we can’t just go in with a mindset of taking all we can. Instead, Graham encourages people to build a relationship with plants and ask for permission before taking them.

“This idea of giving back to the land is hard for many people, because it’s completely foreign to our culture and leads to uncomfortable questions about how we live the rest of our lives, too,” says Graham.

“[It’s about] respect and reciprocity” says Graham, something that echoes in her teachings as well.

Think and reflect

Born and raised in the Squamish territories, Indigenous herbalist Lori Snyder says the woods were her backyard and also her safe place.

Snyder grew up not knowing much about her First Nations background. It wasn’t until she got older that she became curious.

“Plants are tied back to my history. Plants became like my elders; I felt guided and taken care of,” says Snyder. “We’ve been marketed away from our true nature. It’s empowering to know we’re all connected, we’re a part of the ecosystem –
what we do impacts the environment.”

Snyder says plants can tell us about our soil, environment and the weather. She says the dandelion, a weed usually seen as undesirable, has been trying to get our attention for years.

“The dandelion only grows where there are people,” says Snyder. “It helps to flush toxins, gives us minerals and vitamins, depending on how she’s [dandelion] extracted. She’s a little misunderstood.”

Both Snyder and Graham believe humans have a responsibility to the plant kingdom and future generations.

“It’s exciting to see everyone’s eyes going wide with wonder,” says Graham. “Facilitating that experience for people is some of the most important work I do.”

For more information on the walk, please visit www.coquitlamheritage.ca/eventslist/2018/4/14/urban-food-fibre-walk

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