Indigenous ethnobotanist dedicated to preserving traditional plant knowledge in Greater Victoria – Victoria News

JB (John-Bradley) Williams is an ethnobotanist of Tsawout and Ahousat ancestry dedicated to maintaining traditional knowledge of native plants.

His interest in plants began among the horticulturalists at Camosun College.

“One of my biology teachers ran a location-based program where they took students to culturally relevant sites – teaching us the traditional names of these places and plants and why they were and still are important,” he said. Williams said.

As he already had an affinity for greenery, he began to take an interest in native plants, and it was through this program that he transitioned from horticulture to botany with the intention of gaining a better understanding of plants. natives, their medicinal properties and other abilities.

Botany is the scientific study and research of plants, while horticulture involves the art and science of gardening.

“As I was on this program, I began to realize that greenery is not even and that I needed to focus on studying native plants.”

Over time, Williams has adapted to a hybrid mindset in relation to the plants he studies.

“The world I live in is the world of the First Nations, but also the colonialized world – the teaching I received from one of my elders is that because we live in this double reality, we must take the best. of both worlds and apply them to our lives to find pleasure and peace.

Williams’ botany is based on plants from the Pacific Northwest, but he understands that visitors to this land also bring healthy, edible plants.

“I try to encourage as many people as possible to not only think about these plants that have come with visitors to this earth, but also to include native plants in their gardening concepts,” he said. “Not only have these native plants evolved to live in our climate, they also lend themselves very well to being pampered in the same way we pamper our conventional garden plants.”

Williams leads storytelling and leads native plant tours, cedar weaving workshops, traditional cooks, and salmon barbecues. He directs these educational opportunities for universities and the public.

“They just have to let me know who they represent and what they are looking for – I can do them anywhere on the South Island.”

Contact Williams at

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