Dakota Plants of Ȟemníčhaŋ

Free Coloring Book by Marlena Myles

Plants of Hemnican - free coloring book

Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) is known for his masterpiece Walden (1854), a philosophical novel of living a life close to nature, based off the two years he spent in a small cabin at Walden Pond (Massachusetts) as an “experiment in simplicity”. Over the years, Walden has inspired and informed the work of naturalists, environmentalists and writers; some even call him the “father of environmentalism”. Thoreau was a Transcendentalist who connected spirituality through living as a relative to Nature. Dakota people have similar philosophical views such as the Sacred Hoop and Mitákuye Owás’iŋ (we are all related) which means our existence depends on a balanced, harmonic relationship with all things.

By immersing himself in Nature, Thoreau hoped to gain a more objective understanding of society through personal introspection. He was strongly against slavery, working in the underground railroad to help slaves escape to Canada. One of his most well-known essays “Civil Disobedience” argues that it is sometimes necessary to disobey the law in order to protest unjust government actions; it has inspired later civil rights movements led by Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

In 1861, the year before his death, Thoreau took a month long trip to the midwest and explored the area around the Twin Cities with his friend Horace Mann, Jr. He traveled along the Wakpá Tháŋka (Mississippi River), stopping in Bde Óta Othúŋwe (Minneapolis) and Imnížaska Othúŋwe (St Paul); while there, he visited Owámniyomni (St. Anthony Falls), Wíta Tópa Bde (Lake of the Isles), Bde Makhá Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun), Bde Umáŋ (Lake Harriet), Mní Iȟpáyedaŋ (Minnehaha Falls), and Bdóte (Pike Island). He traveled down the Mnísota Wakpá (Minnesota River) and saw the Dakota people at the Lower Sioux Agency; he rightly predicted in his journal that their mistreatment by the US government would lead to a war (Dakota War of 1862).

Before returning to his home in Massachusetts, he climbed Ȟemníčhaŋ (Barn Bluff) where he read his mail, wrote in his journal of the natural beauty of Tháŋka Bdé (Lake Pepin) and ate Wažúšteča (wild strawberries). His journals offer scientific and poetic studies of the indigenous plants he saw growing throughout his Minnesota journey. This coloring book of Dakota Plants of Ȟemníčhaŋ is inspired by his writings which I have illustrated using the floral artistic-style of Dakota people to create something that together combines our connections to Nature.

*These Dakota place names can be further explored on the Dakota Land Map page, where you can hear audio and download free prints. 

Sources for the Dakota plant knowledge are from the First Scout Blog (secondary source), Linda Black Elk’s Culturally Important Plants of the Lakota (secondary source) and the notes of Father Eugene Buechel (primary source), a Jesuit on the Standing Rock reservation.

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