Making Bug Spray and Lip Balm From Native Plants

Sixteen-year-old Jocelyn Jones had heard a lot of stories about her grandma and aunties harvesting strawberries from fields in northwest Washington, but admits she didn’t pay much attention until she was actually harvesting berries herself alongside elders from the Suquamish tribe. The harvest outing was part of a youth internship that spanned food systems, traditional plant knowledge and tribal culture.

“There were lots of stories and that was pretty cool,” says Jones, who completed the paid internship with two fellow high school students. “Elders also taught us how to harvest sweet grass. I thought you just cut it off, but that’s not it at all.”

The Suquamish Gardens Summer Youth Internship is an intensive 10-week program that provides a range of experience in different elements of community food systems:

  • Planting, harvesting and preparing Native foods
  • Mapping invasive plant species and keeping journals
  • Making 300 lip balms for a giveaway to participants of the 2012 Canoe Journey, hosted by the Squaxin Island Reservation

“For me, the most important part is getting the youth connected to their communities,” says Julia Bennett-Gladstone, coordinator of the Suquamish Traditional Plants Program. “Youth were empowered by being able to go out and harvest and make medicines and then hand them to an elder.”

 

Trading Cell Phones for Garden Gloves
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When urban youth get off the bus each morning at Dream of Wild Health, just outside the Twin Cities of Minnesota, they leave behind their cell phones, iPods and other electronics to begin a full day of gardening. The Garden Warriors, as they’re called, are teenagers immersed in a four-week program that teaches gardening basics, healthy cooking, traditional ways, and business skills.

 

 
Leaders of Today (Not Tomorrow)
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On the Tohono O’odham Nation, young people are leading work in school gardens, health and wellness initiatives, cultural revitalization, and more. Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA) places youth at the core of all programming with great emphasis on building partnerships between youth, adults and elders.