The importance of plants to peoples of the circumpolar North is often overlooked by non-residents. This oversight stems partly from perceptions of northern diets as exclusively meat- and fish-based and from a tendency for visiting researchers to assign plants to categories of utility--edible, medicinal, material--without also considering complex relationships between plants and culture. This paper focuses on the "sea of relationships" (Cajete 2000:178) between plants and fishing in the Inuit Community of Makkovik, where plant mentors teach how plants are integrated into cultural practices and day-to-day life. We looked to Indigenous methodologies for guidance in developing research questions, learning about plants through story and practice, and understanding and communicating collective knowledge. Makkovimiut plant mentors collectively tell a story of plants and fishing, illustrated in this paper by Makkovimiut artist Aunt Nellie Winters through her Inukuluk drawings. These oral and visual stories describe plants as part of a large network of relationships connecting trees, fish, birds, soil, berries, and people. Similarly, cultural practices are connected to each other; fishing is connected to berry picking, sharing, traveling, gardening, and celebrating, among other practices. Indigenous methodologies, with their focus on relationships, encourage us to seek connections between people and plants, and broaden our understanding of utility and value. Thinking of plants in relation--connected to everything in an active web of relationships--helps us recognize plants as vital facilitators of cultural practices, values, and community well-being and offers insights into the different kinds of relationships we might cultivate within this interconnected web.

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Keywords fishing practices, Indigenous methodologies, Inuit, Labrador, plants
Persistent URL
Journal Journal of Ethnobiology
Oberndorfer, E. (Erica), Winters, N. (Nellie), Gear, C. (Carol), Ljubicic, G, & Lundholm, J. (Jeremy). (2017). Plants in a "Sea of Relationships": Networks of Plants and Fishing in Makkovik, Nunatsiavut (Labrador, Canada). Journal of Ethnobiology (Vol. 37, pp. 458–477). doi:10.2993/0278-0771-37.3.458