Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type

Book Review


The Prairie Naturalist 48: 110. December 2016


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society, 2016. Used by permission.


Plants Have So Much to Give Us, All We Have to Do Is Ask offers a new look at Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) ethnobotany as told through traditional stories. Botanical teachings through stories are a way to pass down traditional knowledge from generation to generation. For example, Anishinaabe knowledge on plants was written and recorded in communities willing to share their knowledge with early scholars, such as Albert B. Reagan (1928), Huron H. Smith (1932), and Melvin R. Gilmore (1933). Each of these scholars spent time with an Anishinaabe community to learn about plants and primarily to provide written descriptions of plants as food and medicine. Ethnobotany by Mary Siisip Geniusz and her daughter, Wendy Makoons Geniusz, is different than those early efforts because they both rely heavily on stories, language, and culture in describing plants from an Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) perspective. The traditional knowledge in this book was obtained over a long period of time (actually generations beyond the author and her teacher, Keewaydinoquay) and was written to be shared with others so that they also could learn. The type of learning that this text portrays is a Master-Teacher apprenticeship, whereby knowledge of plant teachings was exchanged during the time that Mary Geniusz and the late Keewaydinoquay spent together. Keewaydinoquay was a well-known Anishinaabe medicine woman from the Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan; she was a teacher to many, including Mary Geniusz, and she was known by many more, including K. Kindscher, the second author of this review. This text provides ethnobotany from an Indigenous perspective and the book is appropriately subtitled as Anishinaabe Botanical Teachings. Published by the University of Minnesota Press.