BHSU Geek Speak to highlight history, use of native plants in the Black Hills

Author: BHSU Communications/Thursday, October 1, 2015/Categories: 2015









           Jace DeCory.








           Dr. John Dixson









           Dr. Justin Ramsey  








            Tara Ramsey





Black Hills State University is located in the Northern Black Hills - an astounding place. The Black Hills has an astonishing nature with various types of plants and species of animals. American Indians believe that it is a sacred place and plants used properly can cure a lot of diseases.  

BHSU professors Jace DeCory, assistant professor of history and American Indian studies, Dr. John Dixson, professor of chemistry, Dr. Justin Ramsey, assistant professor to plant biology, and Dr. Tara Ramsey, research assistant in biology, will discuss ethnobotany during Geek Speak, Thursday, Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. in Jonas Hall, room 110.

Ethnobotany is the study of the classification, use and management of plants by people. It involves several disciplines, including natural and social sciences, to show how conservation of plants and local knowledge about them can be learned.

The lecture will be split between orators. DeCory will focus on the cultural, traditional plant uses, Dixson will discuss the chemistry aspect, which will include medicinal plant use, and Justin and Tara Ramsey will speak about the ecology and history of ethnobotany.

DeCory looks forward to sharing her passion for native plants, because people are not aware about the research currently conducted on the wildlife, she said.

Lakota people use a variety of plants from the Black Hills for different ceremonies or for teas, she said. They never cultivate the entire plant they only take what they need for a particular ceremony or healing. It&rsquos not cost effective, nor practical, but it is a philosophical belief system, DeCory explained.

"The Black Hills is a very special area. We have a variety of plants. Lakota people said that area holds medicines that can cure many different sicknesses. People should understand that these plants should be acknowledged and protected," DeCory said.

In this technological era scientists can understand what makes plants have those healing powers on humans and produce it, said Justin Ramsey.

"We use traditional medical plants as a guide to study them, what chemically makes them medical. If you can figure that out, you can manufacture it in the lab. You don&rsquot have to use the source directly from the plant," said Dr. Justin Ramsey.

It is necessary to acknowledge there are no unlimited resources of plants on the earth. People should understand that the more they use, the less is left for the future generations.

"We have to protect plants and the earth. People who come visit the Black Hills feel that it&rsquos a special place. We want to let them know exactly why it is so special," said DeCory.

The Geek Speak series is academic lectures and discussions and is sponsored by the University Honors Program and is held every Thursday at 4 p.m. in Jonas Hall room 110 on the BHSU campus.

Upcoming topics include:

Oct. 8 &ndash "Now That It&rsquos Too Late: Climate Change and Human Existence" hosted by Matt Bauman.

Oct. 15 &ndash "Robin Hood Redux: How through Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), CEOs Rob From the Poor and Pay the Rich" hosted by Dr. Byron Hollowell

Oct. 22 &ndash "Outgrowing Optimism" hosted by Dr. Tim Steckline

Oct. 29 &ndash "The Origins of Language" hosted by Dr. Andrey Reznikov

Nov. 5 &ndash "Studying Society through the Apocalyptic Novel: The Road, The Year of the Flood, The Stand, and On the Beach" hosted by Dr. Laura Colmenero Chilberg

Nov. 12 &ndash "Speaking on Behalf of the Natural World&rsquos Rights" hosted by Dr. Nikki Dragone

Nov. 19 &ndash "Perspectives on Hunger" hosted by Dr. Trenton Ellis and Dr. John Alsup

To confirm topics, dates, and room numbers, check the BHSU Campus Calendar.

For more information, contact Dr. Courtney Huse Wika, director of the University Honors Program and assistant professor of English, at 605-642-6918 or


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