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This Week's Guest Is:
Ila Hatters mission is to tune people in to the many ways they can
make Mother Natures pantry and medicine cabinet their own. Hatter does
not forage the woods in the hope of making a profit. In my case, Im
not gathering things to sell but instead am using them for education
teaching people what these plants are, how to identify them, what the traditional
uses are, what the potential market might be for them. I combine my knowledge
of the flora with folklore, telling interesting stories that go with the
botany of what I do. Her work is guided by a quote from writer Henry
David Thoreau. Thoreau wrote that the woods and fields are a
table always spread,. To me, thats exactly what I do
thats what I teach.
Ila and Grandma Amanda Swimmer
Ila Hatter, a descendant of Pocahontas (whose mother was Amopostuskee,
a Cherokee of the Kituwah Clan... and whose father was Wahunsunacock
(aka "King") Powhatan), was raised on natural remedies along with a love
and respect for nature. This led her into exploring the uses of native plants
while living in the South from Texas to the Smoky Mountains, the Caribbean,
Spain, and Southern Appalachia
Ila, known as THE LADY OF THE FOREST, is an interpretive naturalist, artist,
wildcrafter, and gourmet cook with more than 25 years experience teaching
the cultural heritage of native plants. She is a staff instructor for the
Univ. of Tenn.s Smoky Mtn Field School, guest instructor for the Great
Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, the John C. Campbell Folk School
(Brasstown, NC), The Mountain Retreat Center (Highlands, NC), Snowbird Mtn
Lodge (Robbinsville, NC), Charter Board Member of the Yellow Creek Botanical
Institute; and Storyteller for Elderhostels in 3 states. She has been featured
in major newspapers, magazines, and TV shows. Her distinctive skills were
even sought out by CBS for the TV series Christy. The City of
Knoxville, Tenn. commissioned Ila to coordinate and collect the natural history
exhibit representing the Great Smoky Mtn. National Park in the citys
Gateway Visitors Center.
Hatter has recently released a series of instructional videos by her company,
IRONWEED PRODUCTIONS , titled Wild Edibles & Medicinals of Southern
Appalachia with authentic Appalachian music and folklore. She is the
editor/publisher of Roadside Rambles, a collection of wild food
recipes; and edited The Ethnobotany of the Cherokee, by Dr. William
Banks, which will be published under the title: Plants of the
Cherokee. Ila is featured with renowned Cherokee elder, Amanda Swimmer,
in the newest release funded by the Great Smoky Mountain Association: a video
titled Mountain Kitchen. UNC-TV (PBS) filmed Ila for the
Folkways series with Host David Holt in a segment called
Wildcrafting. She was recently featured on national RFD TV network
during April and May 2003. TurnerSouth will air Southern Remedies
with Ila, from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park Pioneer Farmstead,
in June of 2003.
Ila also collaborated with Cradle of Forestry to produce the documentary:
Women of These Hills II - Stories of growing up in Appalachia
from childhood to grandmotherhood, by women of Scotch-Irish (Mary Jane Queen),
Cherokee (Amanda Swimmer), and African-American (Elizabeth Allen) heritage.
She also collaborated with NC State University on a documentary about the
dialects of North Carolina called Mountain Talk
A wonderful article on Ila appeared in nationally acclaimed COUNTRY magazine
featuring wildflower folklore. The award winning OUR STATE magazine, in North
Carolina, featured a 4 page article on how Ila sees and teaches the potential
of weeds and wildflowers for the table and for the medicine cabinet.
For Ila's current event schedule,
Listing of accomplishments, Bio and work history,
PLANTS OF THE CHEROKEE
Lost Manuscript on Cherokee Indians Now Published as Book
An invaluable compilation of lore on the culture of the Eastern Band of Cherokee
Indians that was once lost, is now found.
In 1951, young Masters of Science candidate William Banks, studying under
Dr. Aaron Sharp at the University of Tennessee, settled upon the idea of
doing his thesis on the traditional uses of plants by the Cherokee Indians.
Banks felt it would be the perfect melding of his academic interests in botany
The following spring William and Mrs. Banks moved into a rented room on the
Cherokee Indian Reservation in western North Carolina. Starting with a single
contact (the librarian of the Cherokee Government School), Banks began networking
until he had developed affiliations with 14 primary informants. He spent
long days walking through the rich Appalachian forests and going over plant
specimens with the knowledgeable elders and herb doctors. Nearly all the
Cherokee he contacted were generous with their time and very cooperative;
the few that werent said they feared that sharing their remedies might
diminish their power. To reassure the participants, Banks pledged that he
would never profit from the information he gleaned from the Cherokee.
Over the course of three months, Banks repeatedly interviewed the elders
and took meticulous notes on centuries of wisdom pertaining to more than
300 native and introduced plants. A major strength of his work was that he
used University of Tennessee herbarium specimens, and identified each plant
by both common and scientific names. By using the latter, we can now know
precisely which species the Cherokee informants were referring to.
What Banks learned in 1952 would be impossible to garner today. For whatever
reason, the elders Banks interviewed did not pass on much of their knowledge
to the next generation. And, in an unfortunate twist of fate, the copies
of the thesis that Banks gave to the University of Tennessee libraries,
Some 50 years after Banks made his sojourn to the reservation, his manuscript
resurfaced. Naturalist and medicinal plant specialist Ila Hatter was giving
an herb lore seminar at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. Hatter
was approached by a student who said she had something in her attic the
instructor might find interesting. It was the Banks manuscript.
An enthusiastic member of Great Smoky Mountains Association, Hatter brought
the manuscript to the Associations office at Great Smoky Mountains
National Park headquarters. Association and National Park Service staff
immediately recognized the value of the manuscript and contacted William
Banks in Louisville, Kentucky for permission to publish it as a book. Banks
agreed, but remembering his pledge a half century earlier, insisted that
his royalties be donated to a fund that would benefit the Cherokee.
In publishing the book, the Association updated the scientific plant names
that had changed since the 50s, added plant illustration, but kept
everything else pretty much the same.
Plants of the Cherokees covers over 300 species of plants, from ferns to
trees to wildflowers, and lists the many ways they were used by the Cherokee.
Most of the uses are medicinal. There are treatments for coughs, colds, sore
throat, measles, bee sting, snakebite, poor circulation, swollen feet, fever,
indigestion, rheumatism, toothache, headache, complications during pregnancy,
thrush, diabetes, cramps, bad memory, backache, fainting, even cancer and
impotency. Although some of the ailments are unfamiliar to most modern Americans
(bad disease, disordered saliva, dreaming of
snakes,), their inclusion reveals precious details about the history
of the Cherokee.
Besides medicinals, the book includes edible plants and those the Cherokee
used for hunting, fishing, basket weaving, carving, and for dyeing cloth.
In addition to this information, Banks also included short essays on several
important Cherokee activities with plant tie-ins: the green corn ceremony,
basketry, sacred formulas, and the ball game.
Plants of the Cherokee is available at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
visitor centers and area bookstores for $11.95. It can also be ordered by
contacting the Association at 1-888-898-9102 ext. 26 or
Great Smoky Mountains Association is a private, nonprofit organization that
has been assisting Great Smoky Mountains National Park since 1953. The
association plans to provide over $1.4 million in assistance to the park
read more on Ila's website
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