Robin Wall Kimmerer has inspired my soul to remember a very important foraging rule and way of life, that somehow I had forgotten. It’s integral that you read this before you forage.
Robin is a Professor and Director, at the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, New York. Her ancestry is a mix of European and Anishinaabe. She is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. In her YouTube clips, she mentions how we have been taught to objectify nature. We look at animals, insects, rivers as ‘it’. In her native language, she mentions there isn’t a word to refer to something alive as an ‘it’. She reasons, that by calling these creatures ‘it’ the language suggests that they are less important and that we, as humans have a right to dominate them, use them as we see fit.
Robin also discusses other terms which are equally damaging like ‘natural resources and ecosystem services’ which imply that the only reason these are there, is for humans to use and that they have no intrinsic value on their own. I totally agree with the importance of using the language that means what you want to say and gives out the right message. Robin suggests using the word ‘ki’ instead of it. And ‘kin’ as a plural version.
What struck me most of all was, Robin, talking about how each of us is given a gift. With this gift comes, responsibility. It’s your responsibility to use it. When we go foraging, what the plant gives us, is a gift. In return for this gift, it is our responsibility to give back to the plant. We first ‘ask’ the plant if it is OK to take from it. Then, listen to it’s ‘answer’. This is exactly what I was taught to do when I studied Rongoā Māori (Māori medicinal use of plants) in New Zealand. When as we received the gift, we would give back to the plant.
So, how can you give back, when you forage?
- ATTENTION – Get to know the plant – Give your attention to it
- ASK – Ask if you can take from it. If it “says” no, then don’t take from it.
- APPRECIATE – Say thanks for your gift. The plant has spent a lot of time and energy making that sweet berry in your hot little hand.
- NOTICE – What does it need? – Water? Weeding around the base, pruning of dead branches, or rubbish picked up?
- RETURN UNUSED MATERIALS TO EARTH – You could scatter the seeds around for the plant.
We must remember that all the foraged abundance we find, is not automatically ours to take. First, ask and if we can take the plant/fungi/berry. This is a world where many creatures share the abundance all around, but we must remind ourselves to slow down, appreciate and give back.
Note: I am working on this constantly. I usually mutter a plant’s name under my breath or in my head and ask, but I aim to be a lot better at slowing down and listening to the plants ‘answer’. The best way to ‘hear’/sense this is when you are slow and grounded (Not rushing around). Let’s work on this together!