Date of Award

Fall 12-15-2023

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Forest Resources


John Daigle

Second Committee Member

Darren Ranco

Third Committee Member

Sandra De Urioste-Stone

Additional Committee Members

Daniel Hayes

Michelle Baumflek


Black ash (wikpiyik/Fraxinus nigra) and sweetgrass (suwitokolasol/Anthoxanthum nitens) are two culturally important species to Wabanaki (Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, and Abenaki) people, and to many other Native American tribes across the species’ ranges. Wabanaki relationships with black ash and sweetgrass include creation stories, generational stewardship practices, important economic markets, and cultural identity. Land use patterns, changes in access, invasive species, and climate change are negatively affecting both the health of black ash and sweetgrass and Wabanaki people’s relationship to these species. This dissertation consists of five chapters that mobilize Wabanaki knowledge and address Wabanaki access to sweetgrass and an invasive species response planning for black ash trees. In chapter 1, I utilize a case study approach to show the formative reciprocity between Wabanaki people, sweetgrass, and black ash. Through Emery’s (1998) Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) sustainably framework, I demonstrate black ash and sweetgrass significance to Wabanaki people and illustrate how these materials are rooted within cultural survival. In chapter 2, I describe the relational and processual nature of Indigenous knowledge and how, through Indigenous Research Methodologies, research with Indigenous people can be co-produced and culturally relevant. This chapter acts as a foundation for research approaches described within the subsequent two chapters. In Chapter 3, I will report on a study to restore Wabanaki access to sweetgrass in Acadia National Park. A recent federal rule change has created a regulatory pathway for Federally recognized tribes to gather plants within National Park boundaries. For the National Park Service (NPS), an Environmental Assessment (EA) and a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) is required for any species gathered within NPS park boundaries. This study demonstrates by showing that Wabanaki sweetgrass harvesting does not negatively harm sweetgrass population. This study has moved beyond just providing information for an EA but to one that supports and facilitates relationships for co-management of sweetgrass within Acadia National Park. In Chapter 4, I outline a basket quality black ash habitat suitability model in GIS to identify basket quality black ash stands. This GIS model is successful at finding black ash basket quality ash and coupled with other research findings, is able to identify the distribution of basket quality black ash across a landscape. Chapter 5 is a personal story that serves as a reflection on how the two studies reported in chapters 3 and 4 reflect my own identity as a Maliseet scientist.