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Richardville descendant shares secrets of plants

September 2, 2018

Barbara Silva had heard about Dani Tippmann and decided she would finally come to one of Tippmann’s talks on usable plants and materials.

“Today I just said ‘I’m going,’” Silva said Saturday at the historic Chief Richardville home on Bluffton Road.

Tippmann, a plant tradition bearer who is a member of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, has been honoring and using native plants like pokeweed, cattails and bark from the slippery elm tree for as long as she can remember.

She learned these traditions from her mother, who passed them down from her ancestors, including Chief Richardville, she said.

Minciipi, the Miami name for corn, was ground and used for flour to make puddle cakes, a mixture of corn and water poured thinly on a grill over the open fire and eaten quickly.

Corn was also used for trading to other tribes. Nothing was wasted. The corn silk was used to make tea, a fine infusion for the kidneys, Tippmann said. Husks were braided to use as rope or as firestarters.

Beans grew up the corn stalk and squash grew down below. The orange winter squash kept well over the winter, Tippmann said.

Tobacco was the only thing the men grew and was a sacred plant.

“They smoked it in ceremonies,” Tippman said. Sage was burned or smudged to get rid of evil.

“When you smudge, the germ level goes down,” Tippmann said.

The Miami were hunters, gatherers and gardeners. In the woods, the inner bark of the slippery elm tree was used for sore throats; mulberry bark for rope. White pine needles are high in vitamin C and make an excellent tea; the inside nut of acorns are good for flour when ground and wild ginger, eaten like candy, could cure an upset stomach.

One of the more versatile plants is the cattail, where nothing is wasted from the root to the top of the cattail, which is split and scooped out to eat.

Fresh fluff from the cattail was used to soften and insulate moccasins and was an extra layer inside a baby’s breech cloth, a layer that could be tipped out and replaced.

Tippmann still harvests cattails, but warned against using those found close to yards treated with chemicals or farm runoff.

“You have to be careful where you’re choosing it from,” Tippmann said.

Pokeberries used as a medicine or dye are found naturally in Silva’s yard and her mother used to make salads with dandelion, Silva said.

“Back then, people didn’t used to treat their yards,” Silva said, who refuses to use Roundup or any other pesticide, insecticide or herbicide on her property out in the country.

For upcoming events at the Chief Richardville House, go to The History Center’s Facebook page.

jduffy@jg.net

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