Engaged Palaeoethnobotany on the Northern Plains: A Compelling Future for Medicinal Plant Research


  • Glenn S. L. Stuart University of Saskatchewan
  • Eryn L. Coward




Palaeoethnobotany; ethnobotany; archaeology; medicinal plants; Northern Great Plains


The University of Saskatchewan Department of Archaeology & Anthropology became the first academic Department in Canada to publicly offer a Statement on Reconciliation. Most archaeologists recognize our colonial past and agree we need to expand our focus to incorporate better the thoughts, actions, and desires of the descendant communities of those who produced the material and nonmaterial remains we study. As a subdiscipline of archaeology, palaeoethnobotany with its emphasis on traditional plant use is well-positioned to engage fully with descendant communities. The Northern Plains would seem an ideal candidate for such research, given the rarity of existing palaeoethnobotanical research and the apparent absence of engaged research on medicinal plants. Current literature on the Northern Plains does include various ethnobotanical accounts, including discussion of plants with medicinal purposes. Though rare, there are also a few palaeoethnobotanical studies, which typically incorporate ethnobotanical data to aid interpretations. But what is lacking are clear attempts to bridge these sources of information; to conduct studies specifically designed through the coordinated efforts of Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and Healers with palaeoethnobotanists. We discuss how community-engaged scholarship of medicinal plants research on the Northern Plains may benefit both palaeoethnobotany and descendant communities. 

Author Biographies

Glenn S. L. Stuart, University of Saskatchewan

is an environmental archaeologist at the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Archaeology & Anthropology, specializing in archaeobotanical research in Western Canada. He has over 25 years of experience in archaeology and paleoethnobotany in Canada’s Arctic, Boreal Forest, Parkland, Plains and Mountains, the American Southwest, Mesoamerica, and England. Email: glenn.stuart@usask.

Eryn L. Coward

is a graduate student in the Department of Archaeology & Anthropology at the University of Saskatchewan, specializing in palaeoethnobotanical analysis of plant remains from multiple sites at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, Saskatoon. Her previous research experience includes archaeology and palaeoethnobotany in Israel and Alberta’s Plains and Boreal Forest. 



How to Cite

Stuart, G. S. L. ., & Coward, E. L. . (2020). Engaged Palaeoethnobotany on the Northern Plains: A Compelling Future for Medicinal Plant Research. Engaged Scholar Journal: Community-Engaged Research, Teaching, and Learning, 6(1), 19–38. https://doi.org/10.15402/esj.v6i1.70733

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