Native Sami people in northern Fennoscandia have used a wide range of native plant species for food and medicines throughout history. Plants and plant use are deeply embedded in the Sami traditions and subsistence in northern ecosystems. The overall aim of this study was to gain understanding of the Sami people's interaction with the herb Angelica archangelica in historical times and investigate if this use went beyond a pure opportunistic harvest of wild plants to include management of plants. To analyze this question, we combined studies of ethnographic information, an experimental field study, and discussions with a Sami woman with extended knowledge of Sami plant use. We suggest that the Sami people had a profound understanding of the complexity of the plant life-cycle. They dispersed seeds to favored areas and used harvest techniques intended not to deplete plant populations. The harvest experiment shows that it is possible to prolong the plant's life span by repeatedly harvesting infertile plants. A cross-disciplinary approach is needed to expand understanding of past plant use. Our results place overall Sami subsistence practices in a new light, as being cared for, managed, and sustainable.
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Vol. 36 • No. 3