This geocache is part of the Gold Country GeoTour – The Prequel: Be A Guest. This GeoTour focuses on a step back in time to learn about before the Gold Rush ensued: languages of the region’s culturally diverse families, handed down traditions such as recipes, flora and fauna, historic sites of significance, and points of interest. These stories will help preserve the oral languages and traditions of the region as well as assist in educating visitors and locals alike to the cultural diversity and environmental sensitivity of the region.
Northern St̓át̓imcets: káwkew
Tsilhqot'in (Xeni Gwet'in): tl'esdzi
Sagebrush! Either loved or hated, its sight is ubiquitous in the semi-arid climate that makes up most Gold Country. Its Latin name, Artemisia Tridentata, means Big Sagebrush, which is a distinctive greyish-green shrub that blooms with a distinct yellow flower in the late summer. Big Sagebrush usually grows up to 2m tall, though it can occasionally grow taller, and will also have a 2m spread. The shrub is highly aromatic and is widespread throughout the southern interior of British Columbia. It is one of the area’s most distinctive plants and has a long history of cultural importance amongst the First Nations Peoples dating back far beyond the pre-colonial days.
This confusingly named plant is oftentimes thought of as a member of the sage, or salvia family, which is an herb used both medicinally and as a spice and is a member of the mint family. Sagebrush is in another plant family altogether, the sunflower family. It may look nothing like the sunflower, they are even pollinated differently, sagebrush is wind pollinated as opposed to insect pollinated like the sunflower, but family members they are! There are more than 350 species in the Artemisia family, some of which are called wormwoods. Popular uses of wormwood include the making of both Absinth and Vermouth.
Did you know that plants can talk to each other? Well, technically they release signals that other plants exploit, but it serves the same purpose. Sagebrush are one of the plants that can do this, an example of how this works would be if an attack happened on one sagebrush, it would emit volatile organic compounds that the surrounding plants would sense and then react by producing their own defensive chemicals to make them unattractive, even poisonous, to the attackers. Other species of plants, such as wild tobacco, can hear this and raise their defenses, which lowers the damage from feeding animals.
Sagebrush has long been used by the First Nations Peoples of the Southern Interior of BC in many different ways. Its leaves and branches have been steeped into a tea as a treatment for colds. The bark was woven into mats, bags, and clothing. The most widely known use, and most appropriated use, is the burning of sagebrush as fumigant and for smudging. Smudging is a practice that generally involves prayer and the burning of sacred medicines such as sweetgrass, cedar, sagebrush, and tobacco. Since colonization, many traditions of the First Nations Peoples have been repressed, however the practice of smudging has survived to the present day. Smudging involves the burning of these sacred medicines and then the smoke is wafted, ideally by an eagle feather, over the face and body of the person being smudged. The person waves the smoke towards their body, inhaling as it comes their way. When a room or place is being smudged, the smoke is directed around the room while the person doing the smudging prays for negative energy to leave and positive energy to remain. The ashes of the medicinal herbs are always put outside, onto the earth, to signify the negative energy is placed outside of our lives.
Researched and written by Leah Berkey
5 Things You Didn't Know About Sagebrush appliedeco.org
Big Sagebrush splitrockenvironmental.ca
Artemisia Tridentata en.m.wikipedia.org
Smudging en.m.wikipedia.org & thecanadianencyclopedia.ca