Traditional plant expert Nancy Turner wins prestigious Canada Prize

Social Sciences

- Anne MacLaurin

Ethnobotanist and ethnoecologist Nancy Turner is a long-time champion of Indigenous traditional knowledge and a world expert on traditional plant use. Her book, Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge: Ethnobotany and Ecological Wisdom of Indigenous Peoples of Northwestern North America, was announced the winner of the 2016 Canada Prize in the Social Sciences by The Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, on Monday, April 11th.

Turner, a professor in UVic’s School of Environmental Studies and the Hakai Research Chair in Ethnoecology, is one of the most respected ethnobotanists in the world and specializes in ethnoecological studies with Western Canadian Indigenous peoples—particularly on BC’s central coast. Her acclaimed book is a culmination of four decades exploring the human relationship to our natural environment.

From the jury’s citation:

“Nancy Turner's Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge is an astonishing work of scholarship, the culmination of 40 years of collaborative engagement with indigenous communities and natural ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest. Written in a straightforward, jargon-free style, generously interspersed with photographs, illustrations and tables, the resulting work is surprisingly accessible, given the depth and intensity of the scholarship on display. An extraordinary achievement.”

“I certainly feel very honoured and humbled by this recognition—the book was one of my most enjoyable writing projects ever,” says Turner.

Turner adds, “it allowed me the opportunity to bring together the rich knowledge of so many Indigenous plant experts and researchers, and to show just how much of this knowledge has been shared across cultural, linguistic and geographical boundaries over millennia.”

When Turner spoke about her research she said, “I am indebted to these people and want to acknowledge them and the critical importance of their teachings, their language and their relationships to plants and places.”

Turner graciously thanks her students and other academic colleagues at the University of Victoria and beyond, the Hakai Institute and Tula Foundation, McGill-Queen’s University, the Killam Research Fellowships program and the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences for their interest and support.

The Canada Prizes are awarded annually to the best books by Canadian scholars in the humanities and social sciences that make an exceptional contribution to scholarship, are engagingly written, and enrich the social, cultural and intellectual life of Canada. Winners are selected from books that have received funding from the Awards to Scholarly Publications Program, which is administered by the Federation.

Media release:


In this story

Keywords: canada, prize, nancy, turner, research, sustainability

Related stories