But she was enthusiastic about getting out of the office and taking a walk on a beautiful summer morning to enter the plant kingdom.
Calochortus, a member of the Liliaceae family, was in full bloom. This, Hogan shared, was an example of survival food. The root resembles wild garlic or onion, and bears an edible bulb. Several participants pointed out that a similar flower grows in their yards on the reservation, but they are yellow. Hogan said that the plants were indeed from the same family, but that some plants in the lily family are poisonous.
Laughing, Hogan said that like many foods she would classify as “survival” food, the bulb of the Calochortus, or Mariposa Lily, might not suit the modern palate.
As Hogan, Wero, and other participants stood around a currant bush, munching on berries, Hogan said that a good rule of thumb to follow is to never eat a white berry.
Another bush the group discussed was the lemonade-berry bush. The berries can be eaten or soaked to prepare a tasty and refreshing drink – its common name comes from the fact that it really does resemble lemonade in taste.
But there were healing herbs and plants as well. Mullein, a bi-annual plant, is said to relieve breathing problems, and in some cultures, is used to ward of evil spirits, said Jill Dedera, the assistant director of the AERA. Its leaves are used in tobacco mixes, and a tea of this plant produces a mild expectorant.
Another plant, wild lettuce, is good for headaches and pain. Yet another is used to stay internal bleeding.
Participants in the walk were very enthusiastic about learning that others in different areas used certain plants for the same purpose and were interested in learning how others used them.
Hogan said that there are more than 500 plants in the Navajo herbology, and said that she has long admired the Navajo concept of balance.
“It is the most complete healing discipline I have experienced,” she said. “It is good that we are all learning and working together to protect the environment.”
The drought has changed the picture of plant collecting in Northern Arizona. Hogan has encouraged and worked with organic growers to obtain many of the herbs that she needed. The flip side is that many drought-resistant plants are out in full force in certain areas, Buffalo Park being one such location.
Hogan is also on the board of the Tucson-based Native Seed Search, working to save heirloom seeds. Native Seed Search also provides indigenous seeds to Native American farmers. For example, the group has provided Hopi farmers with seeds for gourds and beans that had almost died out.
Afterward, a discussion of ethics revealed that Hogan never harvests on the slopes of Doko’o’sliid (San Francisco Peaks), feeling that only indigenous herbalists and medicine people should gather plants there. Instead, she has found other places – like Buffalo Park – to gather. There are ethics involved in picking and Hogan explained.
Hogan has spent the last 25 years of her life dedicated to herbal healing. She has respectfully studied with elders of different indigenous communities, including Spanish American, Yaqui, Hopi and Navajo.
One of her principal teachers was Hosteen Sam Boone. Two of his daughters continue his work as herbalists.
Addressing the concern among Native America that non-Indians often “steal” Native American practices, Hogan said that the Arizona Ethnobotanical Research Association works to document the uses of different plants and is funded through her company, Winter Sun, as well as an annual conference and an occasional fund-raiser. Much of her work has been at the invitation of different native communities, and she is known for her practices of giving back to the communities and friends who host her.
Hogan said she especially loves going into community schools and working with children.
She said she is still learning, and thanked participants for sharing knowledge with her.
“It’s really an honor to be here taking a walk with you in our back yard, Hogan said. “Maybe one day, you’ll invite us to take a walk in yours.”