Plant Database

In 1997, the Gwich'in Social and Cultural Institute in partnership with the Aurora Research Institute (ARI) began work with Gwich’in elders on an ethnobotany project. 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 (2002). Information from this book and a Master’s thesis by Alestine Andre (2006) called, Nan t’aihnakwits'inahtsìh (The Land Gives Us Strength) have been used to create our Gwich’in ethnobotany database.

Watch VideoAlso included are photos of these plants, and a short video of Gwich'in Elder Hyacinthe Andre (aged 92) telling an oldtime story about spruce gum in Gwich'in with English sub-titles.

Cautionary Note

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.

Gwich'in Ethnobotany: Plants Used by the Gwich'in for Food, Medicine, Shelter and Tools

Gwich'in EthnobotanyAndre, Alestine and Alan Fehr

This publication presents information recorded from Gwich'in elders on the use of 32 plants and 3 types of rocks and minerals.

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Respect for the land:

Important message from our Gwich’in Elders teachings

  • Harvest all medicine plants away from roads and communities.
  • Take only what you need. It is important to collect only the plant parts you need, pick selectively from different areas and take care not to over harvest from one area.
  • Leave an offering for gathering special medicine plants like tamarack, juniper and white moss (reindeer lichen). You may also leave offerings for other plants as a sign of respect. Place an offering like tobacco, wooden matches, or say prayers before and while collecting plant parts. Please note to always place an offering before collecting ochre.
  • Share harvested resources such as medicine plants, meat, fish, berries with those not able to obtain these resources for themselves.
  • Harvest resources with care, love and respect.