Giulia Friso, lecturer and senior researcher in the SIPS Plant Biology Section, has been awarded a grant from Engaged Cornell to connect Cornell students with the Cayuga Nation of Tompkins County. Friso teaches Medical Ethnobotany (PLBIO 2100) in which students study the role of plants in human health, commonly used medicinal plants across the continents, and the biochemical basis for their modes of action.
Friso’s award will support a stipend for Chief Sam George of the Cayuga Nation to visit the class as a guest speaker to provide a historical cultural context for Native Americans and their relationships with medicinal plants. The class addressed several topics relevant to medicinal plant use by Native Americans including the cosmological view of the universe that informs the cause, diagnosis, and treatment of disease and maintenance of well-being. Students are also introduced to the importance of preserving traditional knowledge, the problems of loss of native languages and biodiversity, and intellectual property rights.
“The opportunity to have Chief Sam George in the classroom to present, answer questions, and engage in conversation with Cornell undergraduate students will create an extraordinary opportunity to deepen relationships and knowledge.” said Friso. “Student’s contact with the Native People is not only important but also essential for a comprehensive and mature understanding of the complex vision of the Native American culture.”
It is hoped that more interactions with the local Native American community can be incorporated into PLBIO 2100 in future years. Possibilities include visits to the Native American SHARE Farm as well as class presentations by indigenous healers and herbalists.