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Eugene Mural Brings New Attention to Native Oregon Plants


Friday, July 15, 2022   

A new mural in Eugene depicts Kalapuya people harvesting native plants and preparing them as food and medicine. It is part of a larger project to provide information and a guide to native plants and their uses in the Willamette Wetlands.

Susan Applegate, the artist who created the project, said the panels of the mural are meant to reflect what is known as the seasonal round, a pattern of moving to different locations for food harvesting at different times of year. She added it is important to note the plants depicted are also right there in Westmoreland Park.

"There in the park, you have access to the immediacy of the living species," Applegate pointed out. "That was exciting, as well as the idea of working with what has gone on before, and how do we clue in to the past and take care of the present with that in mind."

Applegate worked with Ester Stutzman, a Kalapuya elder and storyteller, on the mural, which is 64 feet long and nine feet high. It's located on the east wall of the Dr. Edwin Coleman Jr. Community Center, which sits between two wetland areas.

Jennifer Eisele, pesticides policy manager for Beyond Toxics, one of the project's sponsors, noted a nonprofit started by Ester Stutzman and her family, The Komemma Cultural Preservation Association, has published a set of Kalapuya dictionaries. The mural project incorporates Kalapuya words for native plants as well as their English names.

"There are several of the native plants that grow in the wetlands that are identified in the Santiam dialect of the Kalapuya language," Eisele explained. "There is a language revitalization component to this project, there is the cultural component, and really just sharing all of that with the community in such a beautiful way."

She added the project was created in collaboration with the Friendly Area Neighbors Equity Action Team, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, Kalapuya descendants, City of Eugene Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement, and City of Eugene Parks and Open Space.

Disclosure: Beyond Toxics contributes to our fund for reporting on the Environment, Environmental Justice, Social Justice, and Toxics. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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