Women with knives and books

College co-eds headed to class with their textbooks is a common site on any college campus. At the College of Micronesia-FSM, these co-eds head to class armed with grass sickles and machetes.

The ethnobotany class worked in the Palikir Ethnobotanical Learning garden at the college. The class toured the garden getting acquainted with the collection and being quizzed on the names of the plants in their own local languages. At other colleges an instructor might only have to cover the Latin binomial, common uses, and a local name in a single language, here there are five major language groups with uses that differ for each group.

When no Pohnpeian could recall the local name for Calophyllum inophyllum, I deliberately suggested rekich. As the Pohnpeians practiced rekich, the Chuukese began laughing. I used this to illustrate the loss of language, of devolution, and the impossibility of recovering a word once lost. Then I covered isou and ituc.

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