By Clint Carroll
University of Minnesota Press (2015)
Review by Lori Lambert
Grounded in the ethnographic theories of Medicine (2002), Hart (2006), and Simpson (2007), as well as theories of Indigenous research, this work is an incredible research project that examines the medicine plants of the Cherokee Nation. The writer, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation, was not raised on his tribe’s traditional lands, but returned to the elders to study the power of his people’s medicine plants. The opening paragraphs grab the reader and draw one in.
As a researcher for the Cherokee Natural Resources Department, Carroll’s story begins with two elders describing medicine plants in a field in Oklahoma prior to a meeting of the Blue Sky Water Society, Inc. The men are speaking their native language. Carroll realizes that medicine plants are kept secret from outsiders, however, the members in the meeting want to share because much of Cherokee traditional plant medicine may well be lost through a lack of transmission to succeeding generations. Further, the elders realize how researchers came into Native communities and conducted research without permission, or stole cultural knowledge and intellectual property. One of the elders was concerned that even a tribal member may engage in the harvesting of plants without respect.
Carroll has three goals in writing this book. First, he seeks to tell the story of how the Cherokees established new material, spiritual, and political relationships with the lands and plants after their forced march to Oklahoma’s Indian Territory. Second, he examines the negotiations of resource-based versus relationship-based tribal resource governance—he addresses how the concept of environmental management is very different for Cherokee people than it is in the Western paradigm. Third, he seeks to bring together two areas of study: critical American Indian studies and political ecology.
Written in the first person, Carroll’s narrative is a gift of excellent research grounded in ethnography and Indigenous research methods, and explored through the lens of Cherokee traditions and culture.
Lori Lambert, Ph.D. (Nulhegan Abenaki), is a medical ecologist, a faculty member at Salish Kootenai College for over 22 years, and co-founder of the American Indigenous Research Association.