Author Robert Rogers makes a presentation at the Walk in the Woods conference. Photo submitted.

A La Ronge conference is teaching people what plants in the boreal forest can kill you, and which ones can make you stronger.

The Walk in the Woods event is now in its second year, and the focus this time around is on teaching the healing properties of fungus as well as teaching how to identify poisonous plant life in the boreal forest. One big goal is to increase the use of traditional Indigenous knowledge and medicines.

“You guys are just like the pharmacy of the world out there. Yes, there’s a tremendous amount of foods and medicines and your Elders knew that. And some of that has been passed down and some of it has not. So what we’re hoping to do is bring that back,” said Connie Koehler with the Herbs, Spice and Specialty Agriculture Association of Saskatchewan.

There is also a field trip component for people to explore the boreal forest in search of what Aboriginal author and presenter Robert Rogers calls the “fungal pharmacy.”

Koehler said there is a classroom component called “good agriculture and collection practices” that helps people stay safe whether they’re gathering fungi and plants for personal use or for sale.

“Sometimes you don’t have the knowledge that you should have to do what you’re doing – you think you do but you make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are fatal, sometimes those mistakes just mean that you’re throwing stuff away. But what we need to do is have a fresh set of eyes out there,” she said.

People are also taught how to identify environmental risks like over-harvesting, toxins from landfills, and safety risks like nearby highways.

Now in its final day, the conference is running alongside the Lac La Ronge Indian Band Culture Days and was organized by the KCDA.