Vulnerability of Culturally Significant Plants on the Olympic Peninsula

Yarrow plant

Tribes in the Pacific Northwest rely on plants for food, medicine, and material for culturally important items (e.g., baskets, cages and traps, ceremonial items, tools, and musical instruments). Elders and wisdomkeepers from tribes of the Point No Point Treaty Council have expressed deep concerns about the potential effects of climate change on plant species of key cultural significance, particularly those located in tribal gathering areas on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington.

This project was a direct response to tribal concerns about the loss of culturally significant plants from tribal gathering areas. Researchers conducted interviews with elders from the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe to identify eight plants of key cultural concern because of their growing scarcity, including wild berries, yew, Western redcedar, yarrow, and cattail. Researchers then documented the historical and current distribution and abundance of the eight key plants and used climate models to predict future changes for these species. This research provides baseline information that can be used by tribal and non-tribal resource managers to continue documenting changes and to develop management options for addressing shifting ranges and abundance of culturally significant plant species.

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