Native Plants - General Resources

Garden of Native Prairie Plants Botany and Ethnobotany 

by Penny Dodd & Marion Jankunis

The Garden of Native Prairie Plants is a cooperative project between the Lethbridge & District Horticultural Society, Galt Museum & Archives and Alberta Native Plant Council.


From the earliest times, people have sought out plants for medicinal purposes. Perhaps less spiritual, but no less inquisitive and experimental, gardeners and gatherers from across the ages have dedicated much of their lives to finding plants that could be used for food, clothing, shelter and ornament. Certainly, nomadic people depended on the plants they could find in order to sustain themselves. Over the past twenty-five thousand years, the First Nations people of the prairie developed a knowledge and understanding of the local plants that could help or harm them.

The historical relationship between First Nations people and the plants they used was complex. Dr. Alex Johnston reports that the Blackfoot knew and used about one hundred eighty-five species of plants for purposes of “religion and ceremony, crafts and folklore, birth control, medicines, horse medicines and diet.” Many of these plants can be found in The Garden of Native Prairie Plants, created to commemorate the centenary of the Lethbridge and District Horticultural Society, on the grounds surrounding the Galt Museum & Archives.

The information presented here describes the plants in the Garden, along with their uses by First Nations people. If your interest has been piqued, acquire one of the books cited in the references below, and let your feet take you into the Garden, and then to the grasslands and the hills beyond to observe these plants in their natural environment.

Wild Edible Plants of Manitoba

This guide covers a number of edible plants in Manitoba, Canada including the Winnipeg area, the Wapusk National Park and the Riding Mountain National Park.. Do not collect where prohibited.

This guide focuses on wild edible plants that that are relatively easy to identify and have no deadly poisonous look-alikes.

All plant parts described as being edible raw are also edible (and often more palatable) when cooked.

What Is Indigenous Food Like?

Indigenous recipes are often based on traditional ingredients. This often means combining the three sisters or the three staples that make up much of the traditional Indigenous diet in North America. The three sisters consist of corn, squash, and beans. The story behind the tradition of the three sisters is one worth knowing before you begin.

Many Indigenous meals begin with a base of plants and meat that can be harvested from the land and sea around us. Many traditional Indigenous recipes use moose, caribou, elk, seal, buffalo, rabbit, salmon, and more. Plants such as corn, squash, fiddleheads, wild rice, nuts, and berries were used as well.

Food was, and still is a very important part of Indigenous life. And traditionally, every part of the animal was used for either food, clothing, tools, or shelter. Eating traditional isn’t just delicious, there are loads of health benefits to eating fresh Indigenous cuisine as well. By sticking to food that isn’t processed, you ensure that you know exactly what you’re eating.

Native Plants Of Manitoba & How To Use Them

Sample Entry"

Wild Mint (Mentha spp.) in Manitoba

Wild Mint in Manitoba (Edibility and Identification)

Jennifer Dawn

Medicine in your backyard: How Indigenous peoples have used medicinal plants.
Program at Wanuskewin Heritage Park offers walking tour of medicinal plants

Courtney Markewich CBC News Posted: Aug 05, 2017 6:00 AM CDT | Last Updated: August 6, 2017


Trembling aspen
•    When the leaves of the trembling aspen turn upside down, rain is coming.
•    When young men would go hunt, they would peel off the bark and boil it. The water would be combined with bison fat. The hunters would then apply the mixture to their skin as a way to mask their scent.
•    A white powder will come off the bark when you rub it with your hand. You can then wipe the powder on your skin to be used as a sunscreen.


To read more about what First Nations community members in Manitoba are doing to increase the consumption of traditional foods, read the Manitoba Traditional Foods Initiative: Planning and Resource Development Project. New programs continue to be funded to meet community needs, especially in the North, in order to revive traditional food systems.

Traditional Food refers to the foods that Indigenous people (First Nation, Métis, and Inuit) consumed prior to European contact. Traditional foods are known to not only have significant nutritional benefits, but also cultural and spiritual benefits. This resource focuses on traditional foods that are indigenous to Manitoba, as they can vary throughout Canada.