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Museum event teaches medicinal values of Indigenous herbs

<p>Vickie Jeffries, tribal administrator for the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation, smells a bundle of sweet grass for a virtual portrait on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2020.</p>
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Vickie Jeffries, tribal administrator for the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation, smells a bundle of sweet grass for a virtual portrait on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

November is Native American Heritage Month, and many are honoring and learning about Native culture and practices. To gain more insight into the Indigenous herbal practices, the Orange County Historical Museum is hosting Indigenous Herbs, an event with Vickie Jeffries. 

This virtual event is a part of OCHM’s new exhibit, "Yésah: Journeys of the Occaneechi." It will be held on Zoom on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. and participants can register online.

Vickie Jeffries, herbalist and tribal administrator for the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation, will teach people about the medicinal and culinary values of the herbs used by her tribe.

“During the event, she’s going to walk us through various Indigenous herbs that have been used by her tribe and elders for generations,” Tanya Day, OCHM site manager, said.

Jeffries learned about the powerful property of herbs from her mother, grandmother and tribal elders. She said she has used these remedies all of her life, and that they have proven to have kept her healthy.

“Our remedies go back thousands of years and they are proven to work,” Jeffries said. “I am 66 moons and I am not on any medications and I’ve always used the herbs that they had.”

During her presentation, she plans to share medicinal and culinary recipes that include plants that are accessible to everyone. 

“You can use the whole entire dandelion, even down to the root. You can make a coffee out of it, you can make dandelion tea, you can use the leaves for your salad and they all have benefits in them,” she said. “And this is one of the herbs that you can just readily go out there and pick.”

Zianne Richardson, a sophomore studying human development and family studies and a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe, dated her first experiences with herbal healing to her childhood, as well.

“I grew up going to weekly culture class,” she said. “Early on, we knew about the four sacred herbs. Those four herbs are cedar, sweetgrass, tobacco and sage.”

Richardson said the use of herbal remedies connects Native communities to each other and to the environment.

“Native people have always seen it as you don't take more than you need from Mother Earth,” she said. “So, you just take what you needed from those herbs and those different plants that you had.”

Richardson feels the Indigenous Herbs event will be important in preserving Indigenous heritage and practices.

“It’s not many written documents or a written historical record of all of the stuff that has to do with our culture,” she said. “It’s passed on by mouth, so if we don’t take the time to speak with our elders or with each other to spread these different cultural practices, they die with us.”

Like Richardson, Day hopes this event will teach others about Indigenous culture and give local tribes an avenue to share their knowledge and history.

“We have to create a platform for them to speak for themselves,” Day said. “Regardless of our exhibit, we want to include the tribal community as a part of Hillsborough and a part of Orange County.”

@charity_cohen

arts@dailytarheel.com

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