Moolks (Pacific crabapple, Malus fusca) on the North Coast of British Columbia: Knowledge and Meaning in Gitga'at Culture




Wyllie de Echeverria, Victoria Rawn

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In this thesis, I examined ethnobotanical uses, traditional knowledge and folk classification of moolks, Pacific crabapple (Malus fusca (Raf.) C.K. Schneid.; Rosaceae) for the Gitga’at First Nation of Hartley Bay, and measured morphological variation of sampled trees at the traditional harvesting location. This deciduous tree has historically been an important resource for food, materials and medicine for Indigenous Peoples throughout most of its range along the Pacific coast of North America. One of these groups is the Gitga’at people, whose knowledge is also interesting due to their recognition of approximately five unique varieties. I conducted interviews with seven Gitga’at elders, who recognize up to five distinct varieties moolks, based on fruit characteristics and harvesting location, each with its specific applications. The cultural importance of crabapples was documented through these interviews, as expressed in their folk taxonomy, linguistic knowledge, ethnobotanical uses and management strategies. In addition, I conducted a morphological and ecological study to examine the variability within and among 27 crabapple trees. To determine ecological and morphological variability of crabapples within its traditional harvesting area, I sampled foliage and fruits and measured their traits from individual trees and different sites, and recorded information about the localized habitat. While some fruit and leaf traits are correlated, I identified significant variation within and among trees making it hard to delineate the varieties as described by the elders. In conclusion, by using these two knowledge systems – traditional ecological knowledge and western scientific knowledge – to complement each other, it can result in a more detailed understanding of a botanical species, as they both present us with information about slightly different characteristics. In a rapidly changing world, we need as much collaboration as necessary to allow for resiliency.



Gitga'at, ethnoecology, moolks, Pacific crabapple, Malus fusca, British Columbia, morphology