Plants

Over thousands of years, the Gwich’in have used a variety of trees, shrubs and berries for food, medicine, shelter and tools. Knowledge of this plant use has seriously declined in recent years.

In 1997, GSCI began work with Gwich’in elders on an ethnobotany project to record the use of this traditional knowledge in partnership with the Aurora Research Institute (ARI). The results of this research are available in a joint publication called “Gwich’in Ethnobotany: Plants Used by the Gwich’in for Food, Medicine, Shelter and Tools” by Alestine Andre and Alan Fehr.

The book highlights the use of 32 plants and 3 types of rocks and minerals. Information includes the Gwich'in names for these plants (in both the Gwichya Gwich'in and Teetł’it Gwich'in dialects), where they are found, and how they can be used. Several recipes for making medicine and preparing food are also included. Black and white and colour photographs illustrate the text.

Information from this book and a Master’s thesis by Alestine Andre (2006) called, Nan t’aih nakwits'inahtsìh (The Land Gives Us Strength) have been used to create our Gwich’in ethnobotany database. This database contains cultural knowledge about 43 plants traditionally used by the Gwich’in and is searchable by plant types and uses. You can click on any of the categories to the left to filter the records, or click on “By Type” or “By Uses” above to bring up all categories.

Please note that the plant information provided in this website is NOT a medical guide and must not be used for medical advice or self-medication. DO NOT USE any parts of a plant if you are not certain about the plant’s identity or its medicinal use. Please seek the advice of a local medicine plant specialist for plant information.

Plant database credits

Gwich’in Plant Specialists – Ruth Welsh & Alestine Andre biographies


Alestine Andre
Categories: By Uses, Food, By Type, Berries

As food

The edible berries of this low-growing plant are similar to red currants. The red, shiny berries are juicy but sour. Ruth Welsh and Mary Kendi say if you do...

Ital Katz
Categories: By Uses, Food, By Type, Berries

As food

Although not commonly found in the Gwich’in Settlement Region, the black berries of this plant are strong tasting and usually are picked for food in late...

GNWT, RWED
Categories: By Uses, Food, Medicine, By Type, Berries

As food 

The berries are edible and make good jam. They are ready to pick in August and September and are tasty when eaten as is or eaten with other berries....

Alestine Andre, GSCI
Categories: By Uses, Food, Medicine, Berries

As food

Blueberries are tasty and can be eaten as is or used in jams, pies, muffins, and it’suh, a Gwich’in dessert made from pounded dry fish. As a medicinal tea,...

Dave Jones
Categories: By Uses, Dye, Food, Medicine, By Type, Berries

As food

Cranberries can be eaten raw or added to breads, pies and muffins. Cranberry jam, jelly or syrup can be made by boiling the berries in sugar with water. A...

Leslie Main Johnson
Categories: By Uses, Medicine, By Type, Berries

As medicine

The leaves of the high-bush cranberry plant are crushed and applied to relieve bee-stings and burns.

Source: Andre, Alestine, Nan t'aih nakwits'...

Dave Jones
Categories: By Uses, Medicine, By Type, Berries
As medicine 
Juniper berry tea can be made by washing and boiling the berries (in combination with the branches and roots, if desired). Caroline Cardinal used...
Alestine Andre, GSCI
Categories: By Uses, Food, Medicine, By Type, Berries
As food
The red berries are edible. Annie B. Robert (COPE) said that the boiled berries can be eaten like any other cooked berry and that it helps to increase one’s...
Myrna Pearman
Categories: By Uses, Food, Medicine, By Type, Berries
As food
The red fruit of the raspberry is edible and very sweet tasting.
Source: Andre, Alestine and Alan Fehr, Gwich'...
Christian Bucher
Categories: By Uses, Food, Medicine, By Type, Berries
As food
After the showy pink flowers bloom in June and July, the fruit develop into red berries called rose hips. The red berries are best picked and eaten...

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