Congratulations to our 2022 MPC Award Winners

Rose Ramirez and Deborah Small have been named as recipients of the 2022 Annual Medicinal Plant Conservation Award by United Plant Savers

(Submitted by Susan Leopold)

When I first started reading about arrests for harvesting white sage in the Etiwanda Preserve, it led me down a path to try and understand what was really happening. I traveled to the Etiwanda Preserve and reached out to various people. Two people who provided valuable insight were Rose Ramirez (Chumash/Yaqui), passionate native plant gardener, basket weaver, and photographer, and Deborah Small, artist, photographer, and professor at the School of Arts at California State University in San Marcos.

The Ethnobotany Project by Rose Ramirez & Deborah Small
The Ethnobotany Project Book

Rose and Deborah are also co-authors of Ethnobotany Project: Contemporary Uses of Native Plants. Over the last few years, I have seen how they gathered their communities, working on developing valuable partnerships with activists and the California Native Plant Society. All this work has culminated in an incredible web page on the California Native Plant Society’s website. Their “Saging the World” page presents in-depth information on the white sage trade and its impact. “Saging the World” is about supporting an indigenous-led effort to safeguard white sage. Earth Day 2022 was the premiere of a short documentary that Rose and Deborah brought to fruition as co-directors along with David Bryant.

Saging the World Film

The film is incredibly well done and visually captures the people and their interconnected relationship with the land. It can be so challenging to advocate for plants that are facing a changing environment compounded by the trending demand in the marketplace. This brings into question the management of wild places, enforcement, and legalities from increasing pressures of online marketing and popularized trends. The movie had my head spinning with the insight into not just what was taking place in California, but in Mexico as well.

It is with a humble heart and deep gratitude that we award Rose Ramirez and Deborah Small the Medicinal Plant Conservation Award for 2021. They are trailblazers in uniting the California Native Plant Society, the indigenous peoples of land, activists, and legislators on how we can create impactful change.

What can you do? Share this work with your community.

If you go to a store where they are selling sage, kindly ask them to watch this film. Thank you to Rose and Deborah and all involved in the creative way this work is being communicated to the world.

Stay tuned as this campaign is just emerging. We have work to do! I see “Saging the World” as a model for meaningful engagement in how we think about culturally significant plants and shift our perspectives.

There are no words to express my thankfulness! I have to say this is an overwhelming honor. Our first thought of course was for Barbara Drake. We could hear her voice and how excited she would be as she is always with us, and the white sage project would not be without her. She loved our ethnobotany work and believed in us and the importance of the work.

—Rose

Last night, I began thinking of all the people who have inspired and supported us and our work, starting with Barbara Drake… Everyone who agreed to be a part of our Saging the World documentary and who shared their wisdom and resolve to protect white sage, and who continue to do so as panelists when we are showing the film in various venues. The incredible writers for the white sage Spring issue of Flora, including you. All the people we interviewed for our Ethnobotany Calendar in 2010, and for our original Ethnobotany Project book in 2015, and our Saging the World essay in News from Native California, in 2020.

We want to thank David Bryant and the California Native Plant Society for joining us in Saging the World. None of this would have been possible without all the wonderful people we now know as collaborators and dear friends. So, thank you and the United Plant Savers for this great honor!.

—Deborah