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Medicinal Plant Working Group Elders' Circle


Susan Burdick, Yurok/Karuk, Salyer, CA


To preserve and protect plants of cultural significance to tribes in their natural habitat and ecosystems for the future, so that these plants may be available to future generations carrying out traditional practices.

Consult with tribes to ensure the protection of medicinal plants and their habitats in ways that reinforce and revitalize plant knowledge among tribal people. Work with tribes to facilitate training and education workshops. Engage in plant restoration. Also, educate non-natives to understand the significance of protecting native tribal plants, so that they can assist tribes in plant protection and restoration.


The Elders' Circle was created in 2001 to encourage active participation of tribes and other holders of traditional ecological knowledge pertaining to native medicinal plants. The nine members of the Elders' Circle were invited to participate/chosen through a selection process developed by the PCA-MPWG Ethnobotany Committee. These elders demonstrate extensive knowledge of plant medicine and conservation, represent their tribes, work cross-culturally, and communicate using current technology. The Elders come from locations across the United States, representing the Four Directions and were balanced in gender. The PCA-MPWG relies on the Elders’ Circle to provide Native American perspectives for its medicinal plant conservation activities.

Action Items:

  • Establish priorities and determine effective ways to work together to preserve medicinal plants.
  • Notify other groups of the PCA-MPWG Elders’ Circle and its purpose. Solicit their assistance as appropriate.
    • Provide information to the National Congress of the American Indian about the group’s purpose and goals. Consider areas of collaboration, ways of joining resources, and potential projects. Consider opportunities for collaboration with similar groups.
  • Develop methods to determine information and education needed by tribes for plant conservation. Begin the process of collecting and making information available to them on a broad scale.
    • Develop a questionnaire that can be sent to tribal medicine people to determine what kind of information would help them most with their medicinal plant conservation activities.
    • Develop a list by region of culturally sensitive plants significant to tribes. Also, identify habitat types (forest, wetlands, grasslands).

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Last Updated: 13-Mar-2007