Culture Department Leads Cottonwood Bud Harvest

By Lorraine Basch, Puyallup Tribal Member

On Feb. 6, the Puyallup Tribe’s Culture Department led the first gathering event of the year. It was the first of two events to gather cottonwood buds. The next cottonwood bud event is scheduled for Feb. 20. The department will continue the series in March as they gather nettle.

Cottonwood buds, according to the guest speaker and Tribal Member, Kalicia Bean, “is good for healing skin, it’s really moisturizing, and also good for pain.” The cottonwood, which is native to our homelands, is an essential part of the ecosystem. It not only provides shade to our waterways that protects our salmon, but it also has a natural growth hormone that helps itself and the plants around them grow, according to Bean.

The attendees met at the Culture Center and drove separately to the Youth Center where a cottonwood tree recently fell. It is important, when gathering medicine, that it doesn’t come at the cost of life. Therefore participants gathered only from the twigs and branches that had already fallen to the ground.

After learning about the medicine, a prayer, and an offering, the participants disbursed into the tree line and blackberry bushes, searching for what they could find of the treasured plant that our ancestors held so dear. From what they gathered, they were instructed to put the buds in olive oil and direct sunlight for a month, until the medicine is fully extracted into the oil. This oil will soon be transformed into salves that our ancestors would use for injuries and ails such as arthritis, scrapes and bruises, joint pain, and as Bean mentioned, moisturizers.

With nettle in early bloom this year, the department will be taking community members onto our Tribal lands to gather the nettle’s medicine in March.

Nettle is traditionally used for inflammation, blood pressure, blood sugar levels and hay fever. Many Natives now utilize the plant in recipes like muffins and pasta sauce. One Puyallup Tribal Member and attendee of the event, Roberta Basch, remembers her scapaʔ using nettle for his arthritis and inflammation.

To learn more about the events or to register, please visit the Puyallup Tribe’s Culture Department Facebook or call Marsha Pluff (253-278-4074) and Angie Totus (253-680-5681). You can also register for the classes at this link: