This project is based on the indigenous plants of the Dakotas–their names and uses by the Sicangu Lakota people, and secondary compounds produced by those plants that may be of current interest. The foundation of the research is built on the work of Father Eugene Buechel (1874-1954) who moved to the reservation of Rosebud in 1902, and spent the rest of his life at the Rosebud Reservation and the adjacent Pine Ridge Reservation. (The Lakota-English dictionary published in 1970 was based on his orthography.) All Sincangu uses of the plants comes from Buechel's work (see references) and all South Dakota distribution data come from Van Bruggen's Vasular Plants of South Dakota, and the USDA Plant Database.
Some of the plants used by the Sicangu Lakota people: Ambrosia artemisiifolia, ragweed (© Ted Bodner), Artemisia tridentata, big sagebrush (© Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte), Asclepias incarnata, swamp milkweed (© David Cappaert), Gutierrezia sarothrae, yellow top (© Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte), Yucca glauca, soapweed (© Dave Powell).
From the years 1917-1923 Buechel collected plants and built a herbarium; and many Native Americans at Rosebud helped him with the Lakota names and uses. Of the 293 species in his collection, about 245 have Lakota names. It is estimated that there are about 500 species of plants present on the Rosebud reservation, many of which are extant throughout the state. It is important to note that the Pine Ridge Reservation alone is larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined, presenting a great resource of vegetation.
Top: Fr. Buechel at Two Strike Parish and Fr. Buechel with Red Feather. Bottom: Family and priest (believed to be Fr. Buechel) in front of a tent and Bull Ring digging a medicinal root in the Little White River. Images © 2008 Buechel Memorial Lakota Museum, St. Francis, South Dakota, USA, courtesy Fr. Eugene Buechel, S.J. - A Visual Biography
A major component of the project is the Lead-Deadwood High School Herbarium of South Dakota plants that is being assembled by the students; many plants are the same species identified and collected by Father Buechel.
Students working on their herbarium mounts at the Lead-Deadwood High School Herbarium of South Dakota plants. Images © 2008 Robin Cochran-Dirksen
Specimens of the Lead-Deadwood High School Herbarium. © 2008 Robin Cochran-Dirksen
Hopefully, this will be an ongoing project, it certainly has the potential to go in many, many directions. The tangents for the social, physical, and life sciences will provide students the outlet to research their passions. I envision further collection of plants; possible isolation of secondary compounds produced by these plants; deepening investigation of the uses and ethnobotany of the plants of the region; research of the fields of bioprospecting and pharmaceutical development; linguistics; anthropology and probably many others that I haven't even thought of yet. We would also like to extend a special invitation for collaboration by students of the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations.
By the way, Sicangu is pronounced "see-CHONG-ghoo". And please, if any of you researchers out there have corrections/clarifications for me and my students, e-mail me, we are most definitely not biochemists, botanists, or anthropologists!
Lakota Plant Names
In addition to information about the plants' characteristics and medicinal uses, the students' portfolio pages contain the Lakota plant names and audio files demonstrating their pronounciation. The audio file with the Lakota names was created by Ben Black Bear Jr. of St. Francis, South Dakota, who is also the author of the Introduction to the online version of Dilwyn Rogers' Book of Father Buechel's research. Short clips of the relevant names are provided on each portfolio page. The recording featuring all the names is available here: Listen to Lakota Plant Names
Information on the Internet
- Lakota Names and Traditional Uses of Lakota Plants by Sicangu (Brule) People, in the Rosebud Area, South Dakota: A Study Based on Fr. Eugene Buechel's Collection of Plants of Rosebud around 1920 This electronic edition of Lakota Names and Traditional Uses of Lakota Plants by Sicangu (Brule) People, in the Rosebud Area, South Dakota: A Study Based on Fr. Eugene Buechel's Collection of Plants of Rosebud around 1920, by Dilwyn R Rogers is reproduced with permission of the Rosebud Educational Society, Inc. who retain copyright.
- Rosebud Reservation
- Beuchel Memorial Lakota Museum
- Project Profile: "Washington University Life Sciences Teacher Institute" This Tree of Life project is a component of the Master's in Biology research I am engaged in at Washington University in St. Louis. This is a bit of information about the program in which I am honored to be a part.
- Fr. Eugene Buechel, S.J. - A Visual Biography This is a joint project of Fr. Raymond A Bucko, S.J., at Creighton University and Dr. Karl Markus Kreis, at Fachhochschule Dortmund