Snohomish Tribe Vice-Chair Hosts Native Plant Workshop at Bellevue College

Dayna Verlinsky // The Watchdog

Following a presentation on plants and trees culturally important to the Snohomish Tribe, over a dozen Bellevue College (BC) students dug up and moved blue camas, a flower related to asparagus, near the BC greenhouse as part of last Wednesday’s “Native Plant Workshop.” 

The presentation, in part a product of collaboration between the Office of Sustainability and the grounds staff, was hosted by Pamela Seamonster, the vice-chair of the Snohomish Tribe and a specialist in Indigenous plant medicine. 

As Seamonster discussed the cultural importance of several Pacific Northwest plants and trees, such as the blue camas and the douglas fir, she also touched on the various practical benefits these have provided Indigenous tribes in this region for thousands of years, including as food, medicine, and material to make baskets and other items. 

Following the presentation, some students did not go planting, while some others did. The whole event started at 12:00 p.m. and ended at 2:15 p.m.

According to Sara Holzknecht, the Director of the Sustainability Office, the decision to do the event came about spontaneously as a result of conversations between herself; the Sustainability Office’s program manager, Elissa Gordan; the Grounds supervisor, Brandon Ellsworth; and Seamonster. 

Holznecht stated that the idea was inspired by a similar workshop they had all attended earlier this year. “After the conference, we were talking, and the idea developed organically,” she said. “We had some Camas that had to be relocated anyway, and it’s Native American Heritage Month, so the idea fell into place.” 

One factor that influenced the decision to do the workshop was that BC’s greenhouse and some of its plant grounds are going to be torn down to make room for the new W building that is in the works. 

All the event planners were happy with the number of people who showed up, including Ellsworth. “It’s incredibly heartening to have this number of people show up, not only for what we do, but in support of Seamonster and the Sustainability office,” he said. “People are eager to learn about this stuff, and we are trying to make more opportunities available.” 

Holznecht believes that one benefit of this workshop is to make people more aware of their natural surroundings. “BC campus is 100 acres, and talks like this illuminate the natural environment we walk through,” she said. “Maybe you will see a doug fir tree and instead of just thinking it’s a tree, also think about the legends the Coast Salish people tell about it.”