Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies

Committee Chair

Rosalyn LaPier

Committee Co-chair

Daniel Spencer

Commitee Members

Marilyn Marler


Ethnobotany, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Salish, Community Health, Food Sovereignty, Indigenous Methodologies


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Botany | Comparative Nutrition | Cultural History | Environmental Public Health | Environmental Studies | Indigenous Studies | Nutrition | Other American Studies | Other Food Science | Public Health | Social and Cultural Anthropology


This thesis provides a culturally-comprehensive review of the plants utilized for food in the Bitterroot Salish tribe of northwestern Montana. As part of the larger Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CS&KT) of the Flathead Indian Reservation, the Bitterroot Salish historically utilized hundreds of plants for food, medicine and hygiene. This thesis aims to highlight food plants and their important cultural components. The information herein is a combination of history, ethnography, linguistics, ethnobotany, and first-hand experience with the current Salish community to provide a holistic framework of understanding traditional food plants today. A comprehensive plant list is provided with Latin, Salish and common names as well as an in-depth look into ten plant species and their ethnobotanical components complete with pictures and nutrition information.

The information presented suggests that a cultural framework in ethnobotanical research is necessary in understanding the Indigenous connection to the natural world and traditional foods to support a pathway for improved community health. Using a combination of Indigenous and scientific methodologies this thesis compiles information from the community in the form of interviews and surveys with relevant literature to facilitate an introductory framework of components necessary in understanding Indigenous relationship with food. These components are food sovereignty, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, culture, health and healing, as well as scientific understanding of plant foods in identification, harvesting, processing, cooking, and environmental ecology, botany, nutrition, and environmental science. In support of the belief that “food is medicine” this work looks at the deeper contexts that are involved in how Salish people relate to food, historically and present day and what reintegration of those foods can do for future tribal and community health.



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