11/27/2012 10:34:00 AM Navajo plant use detailed in new book
“Nanisé, A Navajo Herbal: One Hundred Plants from the Navajo Reservation” covers 100 plants found on Navajo lands and their various uses. Submitted photo
Did you know that Scrambled Eggs can soothe a sore throat? No, not the breakfast food. Scrambled Eggs, also called golden smoke or mountain corydalis, is among the 100 plants detailed in Nanisé, published by Five Star Publications, Inc.
Vernon O. Mayes, a range-conservation instructor who has worked for the U.S. Forestry Service and National Park Service, and Barbara Bayless Lacy, a former public relations/researcher with the Navajo Health Authority (NHA), have combined their years of research to create a literary tour of Navajo plants, land and lore in "Nanisé, A Navajo Herbal: One Hundred Plants from the Navajo Reservation."
Mayes recounts ways that the Navajo people used the plants in everyday life, whether for ceremonial, medicinal or household purposes - complete with illustrations.
The 100 plants were selected from more than 1,500 species of wild, vascular plants, including ferns, horsetails, conifers and flowering species by the Navajo Health Authority, Ethnobotany Project staff and approved by the Navajo Medicine Men's Association.
Nanisé, the Navajo word for "vegetation," is designed to be used in the classroom and is a must-have field guide for hikers, botanists, and others who are interested in Navajo culture. The book discusses native uses of plants such as Crownbeard (Verbesina), Sandpuff (Tripterocalyx) and of course Scrambled Eggs (Corydalis) - a flowering herb that Navajos use to treat arthritis, snakebites, and sore throats.
"This book is a wonderful collection of plant descriptions and habitats that are native to the beautiful Navajo Reservation," said Linda F. Radke, president of Five Star Publications, Inc. "It gives the reader not only a complete botanical understanding of the plants and their uses, but a glimpse into Navajo culture, as well."
Navajo plant uses have been transcribed since explorers, missionaries, traders and soldiers first encountered the Navajo people. But their reports, and those of early scientists, were published in limited scholarly editions.
As the reservation becomes increasingly modernized, the old ways are sometimes forgotten. The materials collected to write Nanisé came from the obscure studies and journals of early scientists, missionaries and priests that are not available to the public.
"By taking the point of view of plants and plant use, Nanisé offers a singular perspective on reservation life," said Donna Muller from The Herb Companion magazine. "Readers outside the reservation will be fascinated by this glimpse of a geographically and botanically specialized area and its people."
Jack Ahasteen and Jason Chee illustrated the book.
"Nanisé, A Navajo Herbal: One Hundred Plants from the Navajo Reservation" is now available in print and through electronic media. It is distributed by Midpoint Trade Books and www.eStarPublish.com. More information is available at www.nanisenavajoherbal.com.