Photos and story by Lisa Pemberton, Puyallup Tribal News Editor
When c’abid (camas) plants are in bloom, it’s time to harvest them.
The Culture Department hosted COVID-safe camas gathering events on May 8, 15 and 17. The next event is on Wednesday, May 19, at Pacific Lutheran University’s former golf course. The Tribal community is invited to help harvest the roots, which will be served in the meal at the First Fish Ceremony.
Cultural Director Connie McCloud said the tribe has an agreement that allows the tribal community to gather in certain locations at PLU, and at the nearby Parkland Prairie, which is operated by Pierce County Parks and Recreation. The tribe is also working on an MOU that would allow community members to gather camas on Joint Base Lewis McChord.
Squaxin Island Tribal Member Josh Mason taught participants how to dig the root. He said Lewis and Clark wrote about seas of camas in the prairies of Southwest Washington. The native plant is a traditional Coast Salish food. Its bulbs can be eaten raw, cut up in salad, cooked in soup, steamed or slow roasted.
“This was such an important part of our diet, they had wars over it,” Mason said.
The Culture Department has custom-made single-pronged digging sticks that break the roots away, but camas can also be dug by hand or with a gardening trowel.
On Sunday, May 15, Puyallup Tribal Member Jacqueline George dug roots with her seven-year-old granddaughter Lily Gonseth.
They laughed and enjoyed the time together. George tasted camas, but her granddaughter wasn’t quite ready to try that.
“When I was a kid, we never got to learn this, so to be able to bring my granddaughter out here is an amazing thing,” George said, smiling.
If you go
The Culture Department’s next camas harvest event will be Wednesday morning at PLU’s former golf course. Pre-registration is required. Sign up here: https://fs10.formsite.com/ss3HCQ/t0hvaojlsz/index.html.