Authors: Michael B. Thomas and Maria Fadiman in partnership with the Belau National Museum
Publication: Thomas, Michael B. and Maria Fadiman. Biological species inventory used for Palauan Ngasech First Born Ceremony. 2015. Work in progress.
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Locality: Republic of Palau (7.345490, 134.472660)
Abstract:

Worldwide people are disconnecting from their traditional ceremonies and the plants that constitute the basis of culture. As environmental degradation occurs globally, indigenous peoples lose traditional ecological knowledge about what their ecosystems mean to them. People conserve what they value, and ceremonial plant use plays a central role in valuation systems (Fadiman, 2010). Combining the preservation of culture and environment is effective as indigenous people are more likely to take an interest in their natural world in how it connects to ceremonial traditions. In looking at Ngasech, the Palauan first born ceremony, through the lens of ethnobotany (people's relationship with plants), we will integrate the study of conservation of cultural and natural resources.

This initial study is the first part, a "proof of concept", for a larger project which will result in the publication of a series of booklets documenting the plant use of the other traditional Palauan ceremonies: ocheraol (building a new house), chebcchiil (marriage), kemeldiil (wake) and sis, omengades and cheldecheduch (post wake rituals). In 2016, we plan to apply for a Genographic Legacy Fund grant to create an inclusive record and analysis in collaboration with the Belau National Museum and participating communities so that current and future Palauan generations will have a permanent record and greater access to their cultural and ecological information.

Furthermore, the Pacific Islands environment is in particular danger in relation to climate change. Sea level rise is rapidly affecting the coastal vegetation in Micronesia. Thus, it is imperative to understand the cultural and ecological aspects of these plants. It is important not only for the Palauans, but also for the global scientific community to understand the effects of climate change at a human level. Our work will highlight issues concerning the vulnerability of these ecosystems, and how people value them.

Refernces: Fadiman, M. 2010. Cultural Connect with Local Megafauna: Maori and the Kauri. The Florida Geographer 41:4-21.

Kitalong, A.H., R. Ann Demeo and T. Holm. 2008. A Field Guide: Native Trees of Palau. The Environment, Inc., Koror. Palau. 236 p.

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Families: 28
Genera: 39
Species: 38 (species rank)
Total Taxa: 40 (including subsp. and var.)
indigenous, tree
vine
Cocos nucifera L. - Coconut Palm
indigenous, tree
Crateva religiosa G. Forst. - sacred garlic pear
Introduced, herb, cultivated, medicinal, adornment
introduced, cultivated, herb, medicinal
Derris trifoliata Lour. - threeleaf derris
Hibiscus sp. - rosemallow
indigenous, herb
shrub-tree