Reclaiming Roots includes a collection of twelve plants indigenous to the United States that have been utilized within Native American communities for ceremonial, trade, and architectural purposes. Madeline Sanders (Mvskoke & Mojave) and Shasta Hampton (White Mountain Apache) pioneered the collection and repatriation of eternally ephemeral data that have been orally disseminated within their communities since time immemorial to then transmute the products of roots that could blossom in modernity. The digital renderings of natural products reveal how sacred elements that are often overlooked can help views reconnect to green ways of living. Over 200 drugs that have been or still are listed in the Pharmacopeia of the United States or the National Formulary were first used by Indigenous peoples, but neither reference acknowledges this fact. Thus, the tremendous benefits we’ve derived from Indigenous knowledge of native plant medicines go largely uncredited. With this in mind, it is necessary to pay homage to those who came before us and paved the path for a better future. The artists wish to center and focus our project on the importance of sustainable environments, Indigenous knowledge, and reclaiming their roots. In the 1800s, as westward expansion exposed Americans of European descent to new landscapes as well as the inevitable injuries and illnesses, Indigenous people often provided the explorers and settlers with herbal medicines that proved crucial to their survival. Today, Indigenous plants are central to improving dietary health for current generations.

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Works On View

Reclaiming Roots was created and installed on the campus of Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. Special thanks to the Faculty and Staff at Fort Lewis College for helping to make this installation possible. 

Honeysuckle

This plant can be used as a natural remedy for treating asthma, but it has multiple healing purposes, including rheumatoid arthritis, mumps, and hepatitis. It also helps with upper respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia. 

Mint

This plant can be used to make tea and soothe digestion problems and help an upset stomach. It can also be used to make a salve from the leaves to relieve itching skin and rashes.

Prickly Pear Cactus

This plant can be used both as a food and medicine. Prickly Pear Cactus is unique to the Apache people. Traditionally, they would make lemonade out of this cactus and would eat its fruit. This plant helps to lower cholesterol and prevents diabetes. Although this fruit is very sweet, it can also be used to help with skin burns. 

Rosemary

This plant is considered sacred. It is used mostly as an analgesic for alleviating sore joints. This herb improves memory, relieves muscle pain and spasm, and helps the circulatory and nervous systems. It also improves the immune system and treats indigestion. 

Blackberry

This plant can be used for treating an upset stomach. It can also be made into a tea for curing stomach pain and soothing swollen tissues and joints. An all-natural cough syrup to heal sore throats can be made from blackberry root mixed with honey or maple syrup. This plant is also good for strengthening the whole immune system. 

Sage

Sage is commonly used as a spice, but it also is a sacred plant for many Indigenous Tribes. As a remedy, it can be used for treating medical conditions like abdominal cramps, spasms, cuts, bruises, colds and flu. White sage is native to the Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico. it was and still is used by indigenous communities to cleanse, purify and ward off negative energy. 

Slippery Elm

This plant inner bark can be made into bow strings, rope, thread, and clothing. Tea was made from the bark and leaves to soothe toothaches, respiratory irritations, skin conditions, stomach ache, sore throats, and even spider bites. 

Mullein

A tobacco-like plant, Mullein is commonly used to treat respiratory disorders. Concoctions can be made from the roots of this plant to reduce swelling in the joints, feet, and hands. 

Lavender

This plant can be used as a remedy for insomnia, anxiety, depression, headache, and fatigue. The essential oil has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. infusions can be used to soothe insect bites as well as burns. 

Wild Ginger

This plant can be used for treating earache and ear infections. It can also be made into a mild tea from the rootstock for simulating the digestive system and bloating relief. It also helps with bronchial infections and nausea. 

Wild Rose

Indigenous people often used this plant as a preventative and cure for a mild common cold. When made for tea, this plant stimulates the bladder and kidneys as a mild diuretic. A petal infusion can also be used to treat a sore throat. 

Cattail

This is one of the most famous survival plants the Indigenous population used for food but also as a preventative medicine. Because it’s an easily digestible food, it’s helpful for recovering from illness. It is called the supermarket of the swamp as it can be used in multiple dishes. 

Artist Talk

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Phone: +1 917.415.8633

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