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How a Canadian university combines scientific research with indigenous knowledge

How a Canadian university combines scientific research with indigenous knowledge

The pandemic has had a major impact on universities’ ability to conduct research when many international students cannot do their laboratory work on site. It is in this context that FNUniv Envision this innovative way of working with these students.

Ana Karim Arellano Franco, 24, is among the students who have benefited from this initiative. This undergraduate student at the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico City is doing research in biotechnology. From her home in Mexico, she worked in the Department of Indigenous Knowledge and Science in FNUniv, through the Mitacs Globalink Research Internship, which matches universities with international students.

Anna Karim Arellano Franco has always been fascinated by the indigenous knowledge and medicinal properties of plants. She wanted to learn more about the chemistry of plants. She also makes her own tea.

She says herbal remedies are important to her because many Mexicans are indigenous. This is also the case.

traditional knowledge To my grandmother, to my mother, and now I am also interestedas you say.

She worked remotely on her project with the assistant professor of chemistry at FNUniv, Vincent Ziffel, and under the direction of Archie Winnie, the Elder of Saskatchewan.

For his project, he had to identify, extract and analyze the medicinal properties of seven common plants, including the sarsabella plant, Canadian mint, rose bush, and echinacea.

I focus on the molecules we’re looking for in these plants and see how we can synthesize them using biochemistry, and that’s with First Nations respect., she explained.

This respect is an important component of the process. It means focusing on how it was used in the past. For example, echinacea has been used to treat sore throats, and we search for the same purposes for its properties as an antibiotic., she explained.

It must be said that the First Nations used these plants in this way, which is why we are doing this research. We also have to ask ourselves how to use these molecules without exploiting them.

As the pandemic prevented her from accessing the university’s laboratory, Ana Karim Arellano Franco had to change her plans and study the seven medicinal plants from her home in Mexico.

Their results form the basis of laboratory analyzes. Other students at the site will extract the particles from the plants, explains Professor Vincent Ziffel.

Take a look at the underrated original herbal remedies and their metabolites, such as alkaloids or other antioxidants., he explains.

Some of these molecules can fight cancer, or they are just good antioxidants, which is important to prevent cancer from growing.Professor adds.

But first and foremost, he says, the point here is to do something unique, which is to properly identify indigenous knowledge in the context of herbal chemistry research. We want to highlight those who are based on indigenous knowledge.

Anna Karim Arellano Franco was a match with Archie Winnie, an elder from Sweetgrass First Nation, located 26 km northwest of Battleford, Saskatchewan.

Archie Weenie collaborates with FNUniv For years, plants and nature were considered to promote healing.

I got lost at some point when I was young. I went back to my roots and haven’t veered off that path since. I had sweet grass, and no one to turn to. It took me years to revive my soul and be strong enough to return to my community. Sweetgrass is what I understand, he explained at his sweat hut site in Regina, after a purification ritual.

Archie Winnie says many Aboriginal people are reluctant to share traditional knowledge for fear that people will misuse the plants.

For its part, if the sharing of knowledge can help people And If they are honestHe will agree to talk to them about it.

Archie Winnie says he enjoys working with scientists. it is good. It gives me something when I work with professors with their degrees. I have my own degree too, but my degree comes from nature. My holy book is the mother, the universe.

When seniors are asked to share their knowledge, Archie Weenie ensures that this is done in a respectful manner, that protocols will be respected and tobacco will be served. He says it is important to teach this to the students.

By sharing their knowledge, he says, seniors are also curious to understand more about plant molecules. This curiosity reassures Archie Winnie as a teacher and science enthusiast.

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Vincent Ziffel recalls that it took the First Nations University in Canada years to build its relationships with the indigenous elders.

We certainly want to return this information, this data, what we discover, to the communities that have kindly accepted us and invited us to gathering sessions and festivities.

Vincent Ziffel says working with Aboriginal people has changed his teachings.

I’ve learned a lot from the oral traditions of the original storytellers, and I try to approach my teaching the same because I think we learn best through storytelling, and I think the students appreciate that too. I think it allows us to better preserve the information.

With information from Laura Sciarpelletti