IPE TIG Week: Notes from the Field: Wild Foods and Medicines Teachers Develop an Indigenous Visual Logic Model for Program Evaluation by Jamie Donatuto, Rose James, Elise Krohn, Diana Rohlman, and Valerie Segrest

We are a group of Indigenous and ally wild foods and medicines teachers from the Pacific Northwest Region of the United States. We are honored to be part of a strong movement to revitalize Indigenous lifeways, protect Indigenous knowledge, and support future environmental stewards through education. An important part of this movement is the development of culturally-specific and community-driven research, education, and evaluation models.

With the intention of centering Indigenous culture at all levels of our work, including evaluation, our team created a visual logic model that coalesces Cascadia region Indigenous values and environmental sustainability learning outcomes. Community partners guided this work, including Tribes, Elders, and Indigenous community organizations. Conventional methods for visualizing environmental research tend to remove human and cultural elements, often focusing on water-based or land-based food webs. As an alternative, visual models help to tell stories about the research and data and are a meaningful tool for evaluating and sharing project outcomes with diverse communities, including Tribes (particularly Elders), community partners aiding in research projects, academics, and non-academic audiences.

Figure 1: Transforming American Indian and Alaska Native STEM Learning via Indigenous Knowledge, Translation, Education, and the Environment project, funded by the National Science Foundation (#DRL  1812543)

Our visual logic model incorporates elements of Indigenous plants to tell the story of how they are central to community well-being at large. We paired each of our project outcomes with a specific traditional cultural plant:

  • Sense of season and place: Salmonberry
  • Resilience: Nettle
  • Increased knowledge: Cedar
  • Sense of community: Alder
  • Culturally responsive teaching: Wild rose
  • Adaptable educational resources: Willow

Hot Tip:

Situating oneself in a place-based environmental relationship is critical to developing an Indigenous ecological worldview. When evaluators take the time to responsibly learn, caretake, and utilize the knowledge encased in such worldviews, a more holistic, culturally valid science emerges. We provide a few examples from our visual logic model below. The Coast Salish Lushootseed language translations for these plants have been offered here for cultural context.
Salmonberries (st?g?ad) play an important role for many Indigenous communities in the region, acting as a cue for the incoming spring season and the start of many spring salmon runs. 
Indigenous environmental stewardship relies on a keen understanding of seasonality and cultural keystone species such as salmonberry. Our research centers place-based ecology and its relationship to time and culture. Our educational resources engage local knowledge that is embedded in culturally-specific timeframes, cultural events, and ecological processes. When participants practice the “art of noticing” by engaging all their senses, they form connections with seasonal plants, strengthen critical thinking about ecological processes, and recognize the importance of keystone species as part of wider environmental systems.
Cedar (x?pay?) is a first teacher for many Indigenous communities. Traditional stories and scientific data illustrate how cedar trees care for each other. Cedar offers gifts to Coast Salish Peoples from birth to death including clothing, swift canoes, rot-resistant longhouses. Many people learn how to sustainably harvest and work with cedar from a young age. Cedar represents the critical importance of developing skills and knowledge in environmental sustainability. 
Cedar exemplifies the multi-directional flow of learning between educators and learners. Cedar teaches us as we teach communities about cedar. Our work helps participants and their communities to better identify, harvest, and use plants and foods in ways that align with community strengths, needs, traditional practices, and stewardship. This element of our work acknowledges and builds upon the long-time relationship between humans and plants through hands-on activities and intergenerational knowledge sharing.

Rad Resources:

To learn more about our work, see the full visual logic model, and explore curricula, videos, and stories of our work, please visit here.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Indigenous Peoples in Evaluation (IPE) TIG week. All posts this week are contributed by members of the IPE Topical Interest Group. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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