Skip to main content

Nancy Turner

Professor Emerita

Environmental Studies


About Nancy Turner

Emeritus Professor, Nancy Turner is an ethnobotanist whose research integrates the fields of botany and ecology with anthropology, geography and linguistics, among others. She is interested in the traditional knowledge systems and traditional land and resource management systems of Indigenous Peoples, particularly in western Canada.

Nancy has worked with First Nations Elders and cultural specialists in northwestern North America for over 50 years, collaborating with Indigenous communities to help document, retain and promote their traditional knowledge of plants and habitats, including Indigenous foods, materials and medicines, as well as language and vocabulary relating to plants and environments. Her interests also include the roles of plants and animals in narratives, ceremonies, language and belief systems. 

Nancy was awarded a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellowship in 2015. With this funding she coordinated a symposium in 2017 amongst multiple informed groups on the roles of ethnobotany and ethnoecology in policy, planning and decision-making in the legal and governance arenas around Indigenous Peoples’ land rights and title: Affirming Indigenous Peoples’ Land Rights with Ethnoecology and Ethnobotany: Strategies for Canada’s Future. As an outcome to this work, an edited volume has been published by McGill-Queen’s University Press: Plants, People, and Places. The Roles of Ethnobotany and ethnoecology in Indigenous Peoples’ Land Rights in Canada and Beyond (August 2020). 

Dr. Turner has authored, edited, co-authored or co-edited over 30 books, including: Plants of Haida Gwaii; The Earth’s Blanket; “Keeping it Living”: Traditions of Plant Use and Cultivation on the Northwest Coast of North America (co-edited with Douglas Deur); Saanich Ethnobotany: Culturally Important Plants of the WSÁNEC’ People (with Richard Hebda), and Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples, and over 150 book chapters and papers. Her 2014 two-volume book, Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge: Ethnobotany and Ecological Wisdom of Indigenous Peoples of Northwestern North America (McGill-Queen’s University Press), represents an integration of her long term research. She has received a number of awards for her work, including membership in Order of British Columbia (1999) and the Order of Canada (2009), honorary degrees from Vancouver Island University, University of British Columbia, University of Northern British Columbia and Simon Fraser University; and the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences’ Canada Prize in the Social Sciences for Ancient Pathways.

Accepting grad students?

 Because she is now retired, Dr. Turner is no longer accepting new graduate students.