The Legacy of blue camas among the Salish and Kootenai of the Flathead Indian Reservation historically and present day
By: D. Isadore Mitchell and Dr. Rick G. Everett
Salish and Pend d’Oreille Aboriginal Watershed (SPAW)
The indigenous people of the Columbian River plateau have an in‐depth knowledge of the plant community’s of the region. Every plant had its use spiritual, medical or edible. The blue Camas (Camassia quamash) (Pursh) bulb was a primary food staple to native peoples of the Columbia River basin. The Camas plant was once found throughout the
Pacific Northwest. However, due to the changes in land‐use that followed the post‐Columbian settling of the West, the Camas plant is now restricted to a much smaller range than historically evident. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes (CSKT) people still organize annually to collect Camas and bake Camas bulbs in a traditional pit. Camas, once baked, is a sweet‐tasting and nutritious form of subsistence. Native plant collecting provides a way for tribal people to continue to practice and pass on there cultural and ecological knowledge. Restoration efforts by varying forms of land management are targeting returning the Camas to a large portion of its historical range of variability. Researchers monitored and mapped four locations where Camas has historically occurred. Geographical Positioning System (GPS) points were collected at the four sites around the Flathead Indian Reservation along with other data, including but not limited to: photographs, and historical accounts from tribal elders.