This work studied change in the use of wild plants among the Metis near Lac La Biche, Alberta. The data were obtained from thirty-three residents at the Kikino and Buffalo Lake settlements during the summers of 1990 and 1991. The study had three objectives; the determination of the plant species used and their purposes, quantitative change, or retention, in the use of each of several plant categories, and the reasons for the change or retention in each category.
Eighty-six plant species were identified for purposes of food, medicine, fabrication, fuel, and miscellaneous intents. These groupings were further divided into fourteen sub-categories. Respondents reported a reduction of use in all fourteen. The most substantial reductions occurred in non-berry foods, fabrication plants, tobaccos, and dyes. Reductions in the categories of berries and cherries, organic medicine, smoking woods, and decorative plants were less substantial than in other groupings.
The most frequently cited reasons for change were: the economic integration of residents into the cash economy of the exterior culture, the better quality or convenience of some commercial goods, and the present occupation and consequent location of residents. In the later case, residents reported that they rarely participated in the traditional activities which once brought them into the wilderness, a location which prompted the use of traditional plant products. Modern roads and vehicles have also improved the accessibility of commercial goods. In some instances the same reasons that were given for change also served to continue the use of a few plant categories.
The introduction of goods from the exterior culture has in some cases displaced previous plant uses. In others, commercial goods are used in addition to traditional plant applications. The overall reduction in wild plant use will likely continue.