Olbrich Botanical Gardens feature a native herb garden


MADISON, WI— This summer, the Olbrich Botanical Herb Garden will plant corn, milkweed, sweet grass and more to pay homage to the indigenous traditions of tribes that originated in Southeastern Wisconsin such as the Ho- nation. Chunk

Given its small size, the garden has always been a great place to bring in new plants, said Erin Presley, Olbrich horticulturist. In this case, it also serves to educate the community about native plants as well as the context and traditions that accompany them.

And, in an effort to involve community members, Olbrich organize an event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July 8, serving milkweed soup and enticing visitors to explore the garden and ask questions.

Presley worked on the garden with Ho-Chunk leader Elena Terry and University of Wisconsin-Madison student group Wunk Sheek, who helped find native seeds and translate names, an effort that Presley described it as “invigorating native farming traditions”.

Rita Peters, Olbrich’s staff cashier who is part of the Menominee tribe and a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, helped lead the project.

The food is strongly linked to indigenous cultures, Peters said, especially because this food has come under attack as part of indigenous peoples’ assimilation efforts.

“No longer having access to our traditional foods has changed our relationship with our food and the natural land,” said Peters. “Our seeds are our parents with whom we have spent time over generations, cultivating and working together to nourish our communities. This relationship between seeds and people plays an important role in sustaining crops, economies, indigenous communities and values. ”

Some of these native cultures have been lost to tribes over the years due to violence, displacement and cultural disruption, Presley said. By bringing them to the herb garden and providing some of that historical background, she said she hopes people can learn more about the origin of foods and the culture around them.

“I guess for my part I’m trying to make sure that everyone who comes to the herb garden has this idea that there is a lot of history here that we may have forgotten or put aside. “said Presley.

While the garden has many ties to the Ho-Chunk Nation, Peters said it incorporates several plants from other neighboring tribes, including Ho-Chunk Corn and Squash, Arikara Yellow Beans, Lima Beans Potowatomi. , Cherokee trail-of-tears, and Oneida Tobacco.

“The native plants that grow wild on this land do not follow county or state borders to separate regions,” Peters explained.

Not only is Peters hoping the garden will educate the community, but for her, it was also a way to connect with family and tribal ties.

She was able to work with her aunt, named Rosalene Goodbear on the Ho-Chunk side of her family, to translate the seed names. In the garden, the Ho-Chunk names will appear alongside English words to “further incorporate into the native garden experience,” Peters said.

Her two grandmothers grew up in the nearby Starkweather neighborhood and they told Peters stories of them playing in the gardens. So, getting involved with Olbrich, and above all taking the lead in this project, allows Peters to share a bit of the Ho-Chunk culture that his family has followed for generations.

And for those who don’t have personal connections, Presley said she hopes people can still feel connected to the garden.

“It’s so much fun to see people walking into the herb garden, and I always hope that no matter who you are or where you are from, you can see something in the herb garden that has to be. meaning to you or that you recognize and make you feel right at home, ”Presley said.


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Terri S. Tomasini