BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Linwood Tall Bull looked across Washington Elementary's courtyard on a recent Monday afternoon at the several dozen children seated in front of him and told them that, from the right perspective, they're a lot like the plants around them.
A retired Northern Cheyenne ethnobotanist, Tall Bull studies the connections between people and plants, specifically in relation to his tribe. He spoke to students about those connections with the Northern Cheyenne, including how they've been used for medical, spiritual, religious and nutritional purposes over thousands of years.
He asked the kids if they've ever been mad at their parents and ran into the backyard, climbed a tree, and said you're never coming down until dinner?
The kids, for the most part, sat enthralled by Tall Bull's presentation, which included plenty of real samples of items such as dried roots, sage and patties made of dried and crushed berries.
"He gave the plants water, just like we need water to grow," she said.
Draven Scray, 8, said he liked learning about how the Northern Cheyenne would use local plants for remedies and cures.
"I don't know a lot of stuff like that," he said. "Like how they can make tea with the berries for when you're sick. It was all pretty new to me."
Principal Karen Ziegler said the presentation was part of an overall effort to educate kids on American Indian cultures and traditions. It's especially helpful since many of her students at Washington have native ancestry, but might not know much about it.
"The kids have been just fascinated," she said. "A lot of them just aren't exposed to the culture as much, so it's good. And I think there's a nature deficit in kids, just not being outside enough."
During a short break between speaking with classes, Tall Bull talked about ethnobotany and its ability to share and shed light on the stories of different people, passed down over thousands of years.
Teaching the kids about his tribe's use of local plants, and its beliefs in how they work, is a way to pass on lessons to youngsters that have been handed down for generations.
"I want them to start seeing beauty," Tall Bull said. "I want them to use their five senses and discover what's around them. I'm trying to teach them to respect plants and each other and take some pride."
Information from: Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.