F102 | Honoring Our Indigenous Heritage: Native People, Plants, Pollinators 


2:30 pm - 4:00 pm


6/3, 6/10, 6/17 & 6/24

Four Sessions 

Plus Two Bonus In-Person Sessions on September 10th and 15th

Berkshire Community College

1350 West Street

Pittsfield, MA 01201

This course is offered online via the easy-to-use Zoom program.

As we face contemporary crises ranging from climate disruption and pollinator extinction to food insecurity and health inequalities, what can we learn from the experience of Indigenous people who lived and thrived in our region? We will explore our Indigenous heritage informed by the paradigm of ecosystems as communities of sovereign persons including not only humans, but also plants and pollinators. Our experience will be guided by Indigenous speakers with historic and plant knowledge, as well as experts in edible/medicinal native plants and plant/pollinator interactions.

Drawing on what we learn, class participants will have the opportunity to help plan interpretation for a self-guided wayfinding experience at Berkshire Community College's John Lambert Nature Trail. The plants found on the trail will be connected to the native pollinators that helped sustain a now-endangered, but previously regenerative ecosystem when people of the Mohican Nation lived here. As Potawatomi author/ecologist Professor Robin Wall Kimmerer advocates, this approach would not try to restore an historic ecosystem, but to “re-story” an Indigenous relationship with the land and with “earth beings” such as pollinators.

Recommended reading and resources:

­Medicine Generations: Natural Native American Medicines Traditional to the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans Tribe, Misty D. Cook (Davids).  [CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013].

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, Robin Wall Kimmerer. [Milkweed Editions, 2015]

Operation Pollination - Housatonic Heritage

Native American Heritage Trail - Housatonic Heritage


Session 1, June 3Restorative Approaches to Native American Medicine and Guidance on Nature Trail Interpretation 

Dr.  Margaret Bruchac (Abenaki) – in her multi-modal career as a performer, ethnographer, historian, and museum consultant has long been committed to critical analyses of colonial histories and recoveries of Indigenous histories. At the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Bruchac is an Associate Professor of Anthropology, Coordinator of Native American and Indigenous Studies, and Associate Faculty in the Penn Cultural Heritage Center. She has long served as a consultant to New England museums, including Historic Northampton, Historic Deerfield, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, and Old Sturbridge Village.

Session 2, June 10: Identifying Native Wild Edibles and Medicinal Plants in the Berkshires

Russ Cohen holds a bachelor's degree in Land Use Planning from Vassar College, master's in Natural Resources, and law degree from The Ohio State University. He served as River Advocate in the Division of Ecological Restoration, Mass. Department of Fish and Game from 1992 until his retirement in 2015. Russ has offered wild edible walks and talks for more than 45 years and is recognized as the region’s leading wild edibles expert. He is now “playing the role of Johnny Appleseed” for native edible species, using his nursery to grow 1,000 plants, representing more than a third of the more than 180 species edible by people and native to New England ecoregions. Russ is forming planting partnerships with land trusts, tribal groups, municipalities, state and federal agencies, schools and colleges. He is the author of Wild Plants I Have Known…and Eaten

There will also be a guided trail walk on the afternoon of September 15th at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, MA.  More information will be sent to registrants.

Session 3, June 17: Medicine Generations: Natural Native American Medicines Traditional to the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans 

Misty Cook grew up on the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans Indian Reservation in Wisconsin and lived there until going to college. She holds B.A. and M.S. degrees from University of Wisconsin Green Bay and worked as Education and Cultural Affairs Director for her tribe. Misty was certified as a tribal Medicine Woman due to her years of tracing oral history, field work and experience with traditional native medicinal plants. Her Medicine Generations book documents 58 Native American herbal medicines passed down through her family tree of Wolf Clan Medicine People and tribal stories. Her book covers gathering and identifying these plants and preparing them through teas, tinctures, salves, and poultices. She highlights the spirituality of plant medicine and the gifting culture within which they are shared.

Session 4, June 24: Native Plant-Pollinator Interactions

Evan Abramson is a results-driven designer and planner on a mission to rebuild biologically diverse ecosystems through pollinator-plant interactions. As Founder and Principal of Landscape Interactions, he works closely with project partners along every step of the process, from conception through design, implementation and maintenance. Since 2019, Landscape Interactions has been responsible for nearly 300 acres of habitat installed in the Northeast, specifically targeting at-risk bee and lepidoptera species for each project location. He holds a Master of Science in Ecological Design from the Conway School of Landscape Design, Certificates in Permaculture Design and Biodynamic Gardening, and is the author of numerous publications, including the Great Barrington Pollinator Action Plan.

There will also be a guided trail walk on the morning of September 10th at the Pollinator Pathway in the Town of Egremont's French Park More information will be sent to registrants.

Moderator Vivian Orlowski, Program Director of the Housatonic Heritage Operation Pollination Program and Chair of the Great Barrington Agricultural Commission, has a long- standing commitment to environmental and social justice. The historic oppression of Indigenous peoples was seared into her memory at age 10 by the outdoor drama "Unto These Hills" in Cherokee, NC. Vivian’s professional background includes teaching Latin American Politics (University of Wisconsin, Grinnell College), overseeing social science bibliographic acquisitions (Yale University), editing (CHOICE Magazine), advising (College Sustainability Report Card) and regional leadership roles on public health, emergency planning and sustainable food/ agriculture policy. She studied Government at New York University (B.A. Phi Beta Kappa), French Politics at L’Institut d’Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po) in Paris and Political Science and Latin American Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison (M.A. Woodrow Wilson Fellow).

This course is offered in collaboration with Housatonic Heritage

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