Nancy Turner

Professor Nancy Turner is an ethnobotanist whose expertise spans the fields of botany, linguistics, anthropology, and law.

Professor Turner is an ethnobotanist who studies relationships between people and plants. She works with First Nations botanical experts to document the wealth of Indigenous knowledge, practices, and beliefs around plants and environments. Her work spans the fields of botany, linguistics, anthropology, and law. First Peoples - and people everywhere - have relied on plants as sources of food, materials and medicines for survival and well-being for millennia, but increasing industrialization is endangering much knowledge about these plants and indeed some plants themselves.

Trudeau project

Making a Place for Indigenous Environmental Knowledge and Environmental Values in Land Use Planning and Decision-making

Professor Turner's Trudeau Foundation research seeks to examine the application of ethnobotanical and related knowledge in the legal arena of First Nations’ land rights and occupancy, as well as in deliberations over industrial development of lands and waters in First Nations’ territories.

Project objectives

To use the methods of ethnobotany (the study of the relationships between humans and plants) and ethnoecology (the study of the relationships between humans and their environment) to see how the knowledge and values of First Nations can be applied to policy development, planning, and decision-making in the context of the legal and governance structures associated with the land rights and titles of Indigenous Peoples in British Columbia and elsewhere. Learn more.

Nancy Turner has long had a fascination for plants, and her studies in ethnobotany began from an early age. She completed her PhD in this field at the University of British Columbia in 1974, and by 1975 published her first book, Plant Foods of British Columbia First Peoples, followed by a number of handbooks and monographs on ethnobotany and edible wild plants. In 1991 she began her university career in Environmental Studies, University of Victoria. She continues to help document and promote First Peoples’ traditional knowledge of plants, including Indigenous foods, materials and medicines, as well as associated language and vocabulary. She has authored many books and monographs, including Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge (2014); Plants of Haida Gwaii (2004); The Earth’s Blanket (2005); and Keeping it Living (on Northwest Coast traditional plant management) (2005), and over 120 peer-reviewed book chapters and papers, and numerous other publications, both popular and academic. Nancy is a member of the Order of Canada and Order of British Columbia, and a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London and the Royal Society of Canada and has received a number of awards and honorary degrees for her work. Her proposed Trudeau project, “Making a Place for Indigenous Environmental Knowledge and Environmental Values in Land Use Planning and Decision-making”, is based on her interests in how Indigenous Peoples’ environmental knowledge and values can be applied effectively in policy, planning and decision-making in the legal and governance arenas around Indigenous Peoples’ land rights and title in British Columbia and more broadly.