Edward Curtis film and discussion at Skidmore College

Tonight was the first time I ventured out into the night alone here in Saratoga Springs, New York. I wanted to attend a program at Tang Museum and Art Gallery, at Skidmore College. The bus comes by my building and so I rode to next stop, Skidmore College. I attended the Film Screening and Discussion, “Coming to Light: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indians.”  I saw first hand the sacrifices Curtis made in order to capture the Native People of the west. He didn’t bother to photograph east coast Native People because they were now influenced by settlers. Out west, it was still pristine and primative. Curtis felt that  Native People would disappear because of white settlers and he desperately wanted to capture a noble people.

Ian Berry, Tang Museum Director, and Jill Sweet, retired professor of Anthropology, led a discussion about their experience in co-curating the 2002 Tang exhibition, “Staging the Indian: The Politics of Representation,” which featured work from Skidmore’s extensive holdings of Curtis’ work.  I had no idea that Skidmore College had this vast collection, which is currently not available for view. It is held at the library and only a handful of professionals have seen it.

There are  going to be further programs as part of Saratoga Reads!. One of the books read was The Round House, about the Ojibwe people and the topic was rape. It is a very sensitive subject because a number of tribal women are victims of violence and rape on tribal land, and yet it is not talked about in the open. There are many secrets. A young man tries to find out what happened to his mother and why doesn’t the tribe come out in the open and do something about it. He tries to find the answers himself within his culture. It is a brave thing for  Louise Erdrich  to bring this subject out into the open. She did so brilliently.full moon


Living on Earth: The Collapse of Western Civilization

Living on Earth: The Collapse of Western Civilization.

Today I went out to my sister’s colonial farm. I brought my birch bark clapping sticks and some corn meal to put down. It was softly raining as I walked up though the woods on the foot trodden trail. I felt I was being led to honor my friend Worth Cooley-Prost who is ascended now with other masters. I just could feel her wanting me to do a Water Ceremony and so I walked up to the Wild Butterfly Habitat where I have my own refuge in a field. My chair was there and I was happy to be able to sit down for a respite.

Sacred gourd
Sacred gourd and clapping sticks

I knew that I would gather my crystal rock and pipe-stone from a sacred Ojibwe place. I didn’t want to leave them behind  knowing that I was moving. I want my sacred things around me. Personally I would rather have my sticks and twigs than furniture. They comfort me and give me strength.

In the clearing I began in the four directions. I chanted the water chant to Nibi Wabo and felt I was honoring the rain as it gently fell and that my friend was pleased.

nibiwabo (2)

There is also a stained glass hanging container that an elder friend made years ago. I thought about it and wondered what I would do with it in my new home? A light-bulb went off. I will hang it from a window and put water in it. It will remind me daily to set my intentions in my own residence. I will offer ceremony for the  purity of water, that it will remain abundantly with the Earth, even though it is quickly disappearing at an alarming rate. I will continue to bless the water. She wants to be honored. We should never  forget this life giving gift to all Beings that live on the planet.

A visit to tranquility
A visit to tranquility

We must never stop protecting her from pollution, toxins, nuclear waste, plastic, and sewage.  She allows us to live as well as the trees, plants, birds, fish, and animals that often sacrifice themselves for us.



Illness is the teacher

I can attest to the truth of these words. A few years back an elder Ojibwe friend told me this. Margaret was a wise woman who spoke volumes in short bursts of wisdom, which I absorbed.

I  have COPD and my lungs and bronchial tubes are at a risk when I catch cold or flu. Since January 1, I have had two bouts of chronic bronchitis. Both times I needed antibiotics for five days. I am on a five day regiment now.

I believe in complimentary medicine. I know that some seeds, herbs and plants are good for treating respiratory ailment.

Come spring, I will transplant more woodland medicinal plants in the woods that my family owns in Fitchburg, MA.

Today, I am making a tea with fresh anise seed (breaks up bronchial mucus.)  I added dried peppermint( energizer), Throat Coat tea by Traditional Medicinals.

I learned about the benefits of slippery elm bark, cinnamon bark, wild cherry bark and fennel seeds and they are some of the ingredients that make up Throat Coat tea.

After I let the tea come to a boiling point, I turn stove off and let the concoction sit for a least five minutes.

I strain the tea and pour the ingredients into a tall drinking container. Before I add the tea, I squeeze a lemon slice and honey into the drinking container first. I remember my grandmother making hot fresh squeezed lemon and honey as a drink. It helped me sweat out a cold.

I guess I can call this experiment a COPD herbal tea that I am documenting. Let’s see how it goes…………..

Mother Earth Water Walkers Press Release

Press Release – For Immediate Release

Ottawa, ON (17 May 2011) – The Native Women’s Association of Canada is acknowledging with the highest esteem the Grandmothers and other supporters who are walking from the four oceans that surround North America. The leaders of the Water Walk carry copper vessels that contain the “healing and sacred salt water” from the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and from Hudson Bay that will be used in a ceremony where the waters converge in Bad River, Wisconsin on June 12, 2011. The water will then be united in Lake Superior where the first Water Walk began in 2003.

Water is a life force that has been respected and honoured through ceremony since time immemorial by the world’s Indigenous peoples. With this respect it is of growing concern that many Indigenous people and others around the world do not have access clean drinking water.

The women in the Water Walk, many whom are Elders have taken on a physically daunting campaign journeying over 10,400,000 steps to raise awareness about the crisis. Like many great concerns it is the women who lead and give voice to the issue.

The Anishinaabe, also known as the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi, are the caretakers of the eastern woodlands and Great Lakes, the largest freshwater system on Earth. Anishinaabe women, as givers-of-life, are responsible for speaking for, protecting and carrying our water.” (Mother Earth Water Walk, 2011)

NWAC, NGO’s and government officials are listening and will respond. You too can support the walkers! For more information see http://www.motherearthwaterwalk.com/ and follow them on Facebook.

Monitoring Native Plants and Insect Species in May 2010

May 2010

Monitoring Native Plant and Insect Species

Woodchip path through the forest
Woodchip path through the forest

I will post the Monitoring Native Plant and Insect Species by month.  Each day I do research, take photos and write.  It is a complex project to post daily so I will write in .docs and transfer to Blog on a regular basis.  As you will see, I need to go through these observations and add photos which is another project.  One step at a time. 

May 1 –There was a high wind.  I went for a walk in the woods even though I knew better than to go out by myself with a high wind blowing.  My heart was happy to be out there alone and listening to wind and bird song.  I walked the worn wood chip path and started to notice the minute world around me. 

First thing I saw were two spring azule (Celastrina argiolus) butterflies fluttering about. These butterflies are tiny and about 1 ½ – 1/3/4 inch. When landed, their underside wings are a camouflage grey with dots.  Resting the butterfly can look like a rock or twig. They are a beautiful delicate blue almost violet color when flying.

Spring azure butterfly camouflage to look like a rock
Spring azure butterfly camouflage to look like a rock
Balsam forest
Balsam forest

   Just past the Cedar grove to the left, on my way to the DNR and Happy Tonics Monarch Butterfly Habitat, and after the wild elderberry patch and the balsam fir grove, I looked to the right and saw some dead birch trees.

Young buckthorn replacing birch grove
Young buckthorn replacing birch grove

 There amidst the bramble of common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) shoots and trees, I noticed the invasive species was taking over the last remnants of a native birch tree forest.  It saddens the heart to see invasive species replacing native woodlands.

Birch polypore mushroom
Birch polypore mushroom

All of a sudden my eyes took in a large birch conk and many smaller ones. These are the Polypore mushrooms: The ancient ones.  The Polymore is shelf or hoof-shaped.  Looking underneath, I saw it had brown pores not gills.  This is a very tough mushroom and can survive overwintering in bitter cold winters.  The texture is wood like on the outside.  I picked a young one from the tree and took it home.  It has a soft felt like texture on the underside.  To honor the thrilling sight of the large shelved mushroom and for taking a smaller specimen, I put down tobacco in thanksgiving, an Ojibwe custom. 

The Ojibwe did not use mushrooms as wild edibles or medicine as far as I know.  Talented Ojibwe artists create art on polypore mushrooms.  In 2003, a young ethnobotany student at Lac Courte Orellies Ojibwe Community College gave me a beautiful etched art mushroom of ducks made from this species.

Prehistoric man teaches us that ancient shamans and people knew about mushrooms.  Otzi, the 5,300-year-old Ice Man, discovered in 1991 on the borders of Austria and Italy, had a conk-like mushroom on him.  The mushroom species was identified as Piptoporus betulinus or birch polypore. Otzi may have been carrying birch polypore as a preventive medicinal cure.  Perhaps the polypore was used to help retard or rid himself of metazoans and mycobacteria from his body. (Stamets, 2002).

According to Stamets, medicinal properties of birch polypore include that it stops bleeding, prevents bacterial infection, is an antimicrobial agent against intestinal parasites and has anti inflamatory effects. The fungus shows antiviral properties that may be of help in times of HIV outbreaks and other biodefense threats. Betulinic acid of this fungus may act on malignant melanoma and other tumor development (Stamets, 2005).  Preparation: Cook by boiling when young.  Thinly slice the polypore, boil and add to soups.  The mushroom only has a shelf life of 2 to 4 days before souring when stored at room temperature and should be used right away.

milkweed in snow in April
milkweed in snow in April

  May 7 –

The weather is turning colder.  I covered as many plants at Lakeland Manor as I could with seed blackest and sheets.  It snowed and lightly hailed throughout the day and the snow continued overnight.  At the habitat I saw a group of milkweed growing together and one solo plant.  I placed a bucket over the milkweed group in the hopes that at least out of ½ acre I could save at least one plant. 

May 8 – It continued to be windy and cold.  The beautiful Royalty crabapple tree in the yard was completely bent over with the weight of the snow.  The plants that are covered looked to be still alive.

May 9 – 5:30 a.m. I woke up to look out the living room window to see the bleeding heart plants completely bent over.  I hope they will spring back to life after the cold spell of 28 degrees Fahrenheit this morning.


Lyndy with Yellow River Nursery Milkweed
Lyndy with Yellow River Nursery Milkweed

  May 22

– Six volunteers transplanted 90 butterfly weed from Yellow River Nursery, Spooner, Wisconsin, USA, to the North Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, USA.  

May 25 – Heat records broke in many cities of Northwest Wisconsin.  Shell Lake was extremely hot and humid with temperature at 93 degrees according to my thermometer. Tabitha Brown, LCOOCC Environmental Education Intern, watered the milkweed that we transplated on Saturday. 

 May 26 – Wisconsin Public Radio reported that we are in the worse drought in 25 years. Inland lakes are disappearing.  In the 1930s the drought lasted up to six years.  Northwest Wisconsin is in its seventh year.  According to the report droughts cycle every 3-4 years.  Water levels have dropped from 4 – 18”.

My interest in going out to the Happy Tonics and the DNR Wild Monarch Butterfly Habitat was to pick fiddlehead ferns.  Last fall the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation personnel cut down forbs including bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) that were beginning to take over the site.    Fronds can be eaten when young and still tight.

Fiddlehead fern
Fiddlehead fern

  The bracken is easy to identify when fronds start to unfurl because they resemble eagle claws.  An Ojibwe botanist told me that it is safe to eat them as long as large quantities are not consumed because of carcinogenic properties.  The Ojibwe people have gathered fiddlehead ferns throughout history. The fiddleheads were ready to pick all along the trail and in nearby woods.  Again I put down tobacco.  The spirits of the fiddlehead will bless the act of taking them and more fiddleheads will be born again next year if I honored the gift I was being given.  The act itself reminds me to honor all life.  Without nature we cannot live.     

 The ferns have a brownish fuzzy covering which is their winter blanket.  Preparation: Soak the ferns in cold water to remove the tiny ants that love them and the fuzz.  Boil the ferns for a few minutes to remove any debris.  The cooked ferns can be frozen.  I enjoy sautéed fiddleheads with a little butter and garlic.  Add parboiled ferns to fresh salads.  Try making a creamy asparagus tasting soup as a tonic in the first few weeks of May when the fiddleheads first emerge.  

Popple (Quaking aspen) starting to take over habitat
Popple (Quaking aspen) starting to take over habitat

 When approaching the butterfly habitat, I noticed that the DNR workers also cut back popple trees that were also starting to take over.  The species is the quaking aspen (Polulus tremuloides) that I love but too much of a good thing in field succession can take over native habitat.

 I did not hear any spring peepers while I was out at this habitat which is not that far from the lake. There is an eagle’s nest in the distance to the left down the trail a bit.  I want to monitor activity here more often.


Chapter 1: 

Stamets, P. (2002). MycoMedicinals. Olympia, WA: MycoMedia Productions. (p. 11).      

Stamets, P. (2005) Mycelium Running. Berkley, CA: Ten Speed Press. (pp. 276-277).



Put down tobacco:  This is an Ojibwe cultural and spiritual practice of honoring life beings before you take their lives.  When I take something from nature or see something beautiful, I take out a pinch of tobacco from a small bag designed for this purpose and give thanks to the Creator.  It is good to remember all life forms be it bee, tree, mushroom or edible fern bless humans with food, shelter, medicine and comfort.  

This work is produced by Mary Ellen Ryall and protected by copyright. You can read  this project but do not have permission to publish without permission from copyright holder.  Thank you for your professional courtesy. This is a work in progress.

BEE Connected – Every Day Is Earth Day

Eagle Feather Dance
Eagle Feather Dance


On 24 April 2010 Happy Tonics held the III Annual Earth Day Event in Shell Lake at the Native Wildflower and Butterfly Garden.  This year it did not snow like it did in 2008 but it rained.  Heaven smiled upon us in sending the rains in the 7th year of drought. 

Ginger Wilcox gives sacred tobacco out
Ginger Wilcox gives sacred tobacco out
Thunderbolt Drum
Thunderbolt Drum giving thanks for the rain

We all took a pinch of tobacco and offered our good thoughts along with tobacco to the Ojibwe birch bark basket.  Then Dr. John Anderson offered prayers to the Creator in thanksgiving for the rain and we dedicated our ceremony “To honor the bees.” 

Once a wild wolf now man's friend
Once a wild wolf now man's friend

John taught the audience that man once honored all the four legged, finned and winged relatives.  Somehow we have become disconnected.  He gave an example of how the dog dances when he sees you return safely home.  Every one with loving smiles looked at the dog he was speaking about.   The four-legged one just listened intently to John speaking .  

Ginger Wilcox Eagle Feather and Message
Ginger Wilcox holds Eagle Feather to give message

Ginger Wilcox gave a message as she held the sacred Eagle Feather.  We need to protect and honor the pollinators.  The Earth will survive without human beings.

Mother Earth knows how to protect herself.  We must reconnect to Mother Earth and respect her so that human beings can survive too.  We need to protect the butterflies, bees and native plants and stop destroying the natural world or there will be no natural resources for future generations. 

Paul Schaefer beekeeper and Mary Ellen Ryall with bee frame
Paul Schaefer beekeeper and Mary Ellen Ryall with bee frame
Paul Schaefer spoke about beekeeping.   He and his wife Beverly are beekeepers in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, USA.  The pure and organic honey that they produce is absolutely delicious.  There is an urgent need for younger generation to get involved in beekeeping.  Without bees, we will have no food.  Native bees are also in decline including four species of the beloved bumble bee.  Xerces Society is a good start to learn about native bees and beekeeping.  The local lunch was made possible by a grant from the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board.
Handmade Butterfly Quilt for Happy Tonics Fundraiser
Handmade Butterfly Quilt for Happy Tonics Fundraiser
 The Wednesday Sit and Stitch Quilt Group made this handmade butterfly quilt as a Fundraiser for Happy Tonics.  It took the senior ladies a year to complete the project and the quilt was on display for the Earth Day attendees to view.  It  will be auctioned off online or through a raffle later this summer.  First the quilt is being entered into the 100th Anniversary Fair in Spooner, Wisconsin, this summer.  We surely hope this beautiful quilt wins a ribbon. 
Baby Eden
Baby Eden
The last message of the day is that we must all do our part to protect Mother Earth for the next 7 generations.
Let us plant host and nectar plants for the pollinators so that Baby Eden will have a natural world when she grows up.
Miigwetch (Thank you)!   

Eco Adventure in Wisconsin – 22 March 2010

Hello Insectamonarca friends,

This morning it was quite chilly with a high wind. 

Woodland with haying field
The land of Robins and woodlands

 First I heard the call of the Opichi, robin in Ojibwe, when I was outside looking at the rising sun in the East.  What a sight, I watched 15 of them fly by on the land I love.  They were headed towards the Staghorn Sumac for a tasty treat of fruit still clinging to the branches from last fall 2009. 

Then I walked down to the level land and saw abut 25 male Opichi who were puffed up and strutting their stuff.  The ladies will be along in about a week and each male robin will make a radius around him that is well-tended, including himself.  It will be up to the ladies to pick out their favorite tuxedo attired male partner.

Beautiful crocus
First bloom of spring.

I noticed the first flower of spring blooming near Pat and Sandy’s house in the afternoon of 22 March and it was this gorgeous crocus.

Be happy Insectamonarca friends where ever you are.