Guest Blog: Native American Plant Use

dani-tippmanNiila Myaamia! (I am Miami!) If you have been outside, or even looked through a window lately, you can see all the changes that are going on in nature. The rain has encouraged some of the first wildflowers to peek out and the sun enticed them into blooming. There are ephemerals of all types! On a recent walk I saw everything from wild geranium to spring beauty and even a few skunk cabbage! Many folks tend to focus on the beauty of the woodland flowers in Indiana. Although they are beautiful, we shouldn’t forget the many other applications for which the spring wildflowers can be utilized. Many are foods, medicines or used for technology.

Even the lowly skunk cabbage has its place. Did you know that the Miami used skunk cabbage as food? Considering the smell that exudes from the well named skunk cabbage, it is hard to believe that it was used for food. Still, there were times at the end of a long winter that any green food would have been appreciated. I believe that it was a survival food because it is one of the first green plants to come up, it is relatively easy to find and always easy to identify. But, I believe that it was relegated to being only a survival food, and not used regularly because of the smell!

If you live near a pond or ditch you may know the cattail plant. Its little sprouts are above the water and waiting to hold a place of honor on someone’s plate! Last fall we enjoyed roasted cattail roots, but now it is time to harvest a few of the young sprouts and cook them up similarly to asparagus sprouts. I like to add a little butter and salt to my cattail sprouts, but I think that a little butter and salt makes a lot of things taste better! All parts of the cattail are useable, if not for food then for something else just as handy.

Next time you come to the museum, make sure to stop by and see me. We can talk about some of the plant’s other uses or uses of other plants!


Meet Dani at the Indiana State Museum on the following dates:
Friday, April 24
Thursday, May 7
Friday, May 22

Visit the official museum website at for more information about Dani’s demonstrations.

Dani Tippmann is a Native American demonstrator at the Indiana State Museum.