Virginia Beavert: You Talk to the Plant, You Thank It

Dr.Virginia Beavert (Yakama) talks about the importance of thanking and talking to plants and medicines.

Bio: Virginia Beavert received her Doctorate in Linguistics from the University of Oregon and teaches her native language, Ichishkin. Virginia Beavert, a member of the Yakama Nation, is a highly respected teacher and fluent speaker of her language, Yakama Sahaptin (Ichishkíin Sɨ́nwit)c. She was a key planner of the Yakama exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, and has served on numerous committees and planning councils related to the documentation and preservation of Native languages. ( She grew up learning Nez Perce, and also Klickitat, Umatilla and Yakama dialects of Sahaptin. A respected Yakama elder, she has made invaluable contributions to Confluence at the Sacajawea Park Story Circles project, and the Vancouver Land Bridge.


There were a lot of medicines up there and they’re hard to find anymore because of the forest. You know, the overgrowth now is destroying it. I went up there one time to get what my mother was — she used to tell me to always dowse myself and I took…I was getting ready to ride a big race — to take this plant and put, it was dried of course, and put it in a quart of water and let it sit all night and then dowse myself with it. It would take of me. I went up there to look for it and there were trees all over. It was gone. Just like in Umatilla, I had a horse medicine over there and I was the only one left that knew about it.

I told Dwayne Connor — we were engaged to be married, you know, and so I took him with me and we went up there to get that medicine. And he couldn’t understand why I was talking to it. “What are you talking to?” I said “I’m talking to this medicine. I have to talk to it to make it work.”

So I was standing there talking to this medicine. Then I started to dig it and I needed some help and I needed some help, so I asked him to help me dig it up because it was pretty deep. And I got what I needed and Ieft the rest. So he couldn’t understand that, talking to medicine. I said “All the Indian people believe when you take a medicine or even food, like the first food that you take. The first huckleberries that you take a handful. You talk to it, you talk to that plant. You thank it for giving you this food and you thank the Creator for putting it here for us, you know, for our benefit. We do that for all of us. We do that for all our Sunday service. We do that for our medicines.”


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