Haley Shade is a fourth-year science student at the University of Lethbridge and a member of the nearby Kanai Tribe.
For more than a year, her goal has been to find medical benefits from plants found in southern Alberta.
She is hoping it leads to medicines and, potentially, a cure or treatment for cancer.
“We found a lot of interesting molecules,” said Shade. “Especially a lot of the student graduates’ work.
(Haley Shade is a fourth-year science student at the University of Lethbridge. APTN/Chris Stewart)
“Within my own work, I’ve seen biological activity demonstrated by the traditional Blackfoot material that I introduced within the laboratory.”
Shade says the research they are doing is laying the foundation for more research across Canada combining Western medicine with Indigenous traditional plants.
It’s an important first step.
(Roy Goysteyn is an associate professor at the University of Lethbridge. APTN/Chris Stewart)
Roy Goysteyn runs the Prairie to Pharmacy program at the university.
He has also been learning while teaching the students.
“As a professor, I teach,” said Goysteyn. “But now we have members of the Blackfoot community around this area that actually know things that we don’t. And they are teaching us.
“So it really becomes a very interesting partnership.”
(Gosyteyn, Shade and Masters graduate student Haley Allard. APTN/Chris Stewart)
Shade helped teach Dr. Goysteyn by telling him the Blackfoot names of the plants they are studying.
He told APTN News the plants in southern Alberta have not been intently studied anywhere.
“For example, we work on the Buffalo bean, and from that we have the name rhombifolia. We also have gallardia, which is the brown-eyed Susan. And there are a number of quite-well less-known that we collected in this area.”
For Shade, she is hoping to have younger kids follow in her footsteps and get into science.
“I’ve been able to go back to my community and share some of the scientific work that we’ve produced. As well as engaging other Indigenous youth about science and letting them know there are opportunities for Indigenous youth within scientific research.”