Ethnobotanist to receive VIU honorary doctorate

Nancy Turner will soon have another tribute to add to the long list of honours she has earned for her work in ethnobotany, commitment to preserving First Nations teachings and advocacy for sustainable use of the planet’s resources.

  • Jan. 19, 2011 4:00 p.m.

By Bruce Patterson

Nancy Turner will soon have another tribute to add to the long list of honours she has earned for her work in ethnobotany, commitment to preserving First Nations teachings and advocacy for sustainable use of the planet’s resources.

She will receive an honorary doctorate at Vancouver Island University convocation Jan. 28.

About 400 VIU graduates will receive their degrees in two ceremonies at the Port Theatre starting at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

“I feel very honoured but I also feel the award is more a tribute to the people who were my teachers,” Turner said. “It’s recognition of the value of that kind of knowledge.”

Her lifelong interest in plants and their uses for food, medicine and dyes led her to study biology at the University of Victoria. Tsartlip Chief Philip Paul deepened her interest in ethnobotany when he was guest speaker for a third-year anthropology course. She considers his father, Elder Christopher Paul, as her first teacher in the field.

Turner, a distinguished professor at the University of Victoria’s School of Environmental Studies, received a BSc (Honours Biology) from the University of Victoria in 1969 and a PhD (Ethnobotany) in 1973 from the University of British Columbia.

For more than 40 years, she has worked with First Nations elders and cultural specialists in western Canada and the U.S. and places a strong value on traditional knowledge systems and traditional land and resource management systems of indigenous people. Her work has made significant contributions to the fields of botany, ecology, anthropology, geography and linguistics.

Gail Adrienne, executive director of the Nanaimo and Area Land Trust, lauds Turner for “contributing to our understanding of the value of our natural resources, and the importance of returning to a way of living that promotes environmental sustainability.”

In 2007, Turner was one of 10 Canadian researchers awarded a two-year Killam Research Fellowship to pursue her study, First Peoples, Landscapes and Time: Loss and Renewal in Ecocultural Diversity.

Turner and her husband Robert have a home on Protection Island.

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