An Open Letter to the Herbalist Community from the AHG

On November 13th, 2017, the AHG received a letter requesting, among other things, that we remove reference to the late Victoria Fortner in our diversity, equity and inclusion award. You can view this letter here.

The AHG council, officers, and diversity committee agreed upon a communal response in the form of a letter. Using a shared platform, the letter was drafted inclusive of many voices within the AHG, especially the council, officers, and the diversity committee. A smaller committee carefully completed a final version. This version was presented as signed by the American Herbalists Guild. We also offer you the option to show your support by signing your name in solidarity with our statement.

As many already know, for the past three years we have given an annual award to recognize an herbalist, herbal project, or program working towards deep structural change and social justice. Until now, this award had been named after Victoria Fortner, a long-standing Council member of the Guild who passed in 2014. This fall, it was brought to our attention and subsequently confirmed that Fortner's claim of Shawnee heritage was not based in fact.

Firstly, we would like to thank the various people who brought this important truth to our attention. Secondly, we sincerely apologize to the Shawnee people and to anyone else rightly offended by this false claim.

We recognize that over the years, despite success in myriad ways, some harmful dynamics of social power and privilege in our greater society have been mirrored in the structure and actions of our organization. We know we are at the beginning of a long process of paradigm shifting and there is much work that remains to be done.

​The American Herbalists Guild acknowledges that we have appeared to condone cultural appropriation as evidenced by the naming of our annual award, as well as other actions. We do not condone cultural appropriation. In fact, our goal is creating a respectful, welcoming organization for the furtherance of herbal medicine and all herbalists, herbal traditions, and cultures. In this spirit, we are taking the following concrete actions to address this misrepresentation.

  • The Guild is removing the reference to Victoria Fortner in our diversity initiatives, including the Award. The AHG will offer past recipients of the award an updated version with the new title. Changes to our materials bearing this name will be made promptly.
  • The Guild is reviewing and revising our Code of Ethics, Mission and Value statements with this situation in mind, acknowledging the significance of language while knowing these statements are superficial gestures without meaningful action.
  • We pledge to seek guidance on the most meaningful and effective ways to increase internal capacity and awareness. This may include, but certainly not be limited to, implementing training(s) and other dialogue for AHG staff and leadership council on issues of social and racial justice.
  • We will seek guidance on implementing systems to discourage culturally appropriative behavior in AHG Symposiums and other AHG forums.

We will continue to welcome suggestions from the community, while we also understand that this ongoing work is the responsibility of individuals and organizations holding positions of systemic, social, and cultural privilege. We are extremely grateful for the feedback we recently received, and we offer this statement not as a final response, but as a beginning of what we hope will evolve into ongoing dialogue. 

In Partnership,
The American Herbalists Guild​

The following community members support the AHG Open Letter and signed in solidarity. If you would like to add your name, please click here.

Bevin Clare, Heather Compton, Traci Picard, Renee Davis, Janette Cormier, RAc, RH, Joanne Kewageshig, Kristi Legume Shapla, Shelagh Brown, Lauren Stauber, Gwynnie Bran Hale,, D.Van Eyk, Thomas Easley, RH (AHG), Lauren Cooper RH (AHG), Shabina lafleur-gangji, Holly Torgerson,  mandana boushee, Jayme Cannon, Paula Diaz, Stephanie Morningstar, Sean Donahue, Danielle Gehl Hagel, Tina Zafreen Alam, Phong Phi Hoan Tran Trinh, Keely Denning, Sarah Quirino,  Emelina Ramos, Jamie lynn Thomas, Wendy Hounsel, Barbara Salvatore,  Greta de la Montagne, A. Hundert, Ted barager, Nadine Ijaz, Deb Friedman, Kristin Henningsen, Jude Ashburn, Rebecca Snow, Linda Black Elk, Richard Mandelbaum, Ashley Litecky Elenbaas, Stephanie McCarthy, Robin Williams, Larken Bunce, Sallie Dixon, Thohahente, Rhiannon Futch, Chloe Morris, Ginger Webb, Meghan Henshaw, Missy Rohs, Jen Stovall, Holly Hutton, Selena Rowan, Robyn Urbach, Patricia Kyritsi Howell, Jon Keyes, Dixie Pauline,  Erin Smith,  Bob Linde, RH(AHG), Rose Patton, Brenda Lynn Gould, Paul Bergner, Barbara Worley, Henriette den Ouden, Deb Fate-Mental, Susan e. Hirsch, Amanda Jokerst, Frances O'Halloran, Sheila M. Devitt, herbalist, Lorna Mauney-Brodek, Helen Lowe Metzman, Mary Allan - New Zealand, Dr. Luana Ross (Bitterroot Salish), Renee Roullier-Madrigal, Charles W Bloomfield, Emily Ruff, Amy Charnay, Ellen Swaney, Confedrated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, Rachel Evans, David Harder, Gina Gibbons, Kate Sinon, Susan Marynowski, Ryan O'Connor Wolik, Raven Ioneh, Tony(a) Lemos, Suki Roth, Sharon Walluk, Kathryn Chapman, Kimberly DeVries, Elaine Sheff, Clinical Herbalist, RH(AHG), Atava Garcia Swiecicki, John Courie, Laura Brill, Sarah Grasty, Cathy R Breiner, Alison A. Birks, Betina Thorball, Rephael J Rechitzky, Chani Greiner, mary boulding Herbalist, Sonia Smith, Jeannie Dunn, tracy heron moore, Cindi Iritsky, Rylan Sían, Ellen Evert Hopman M.Ed. Herbalist, Author, Anne Salazar, Christina Gibson, Susan Michael, Nikimbre' Daniels, Jess Krueger, Nicki Schneider,Thomas Stohr, Dr. Heath McAllister, Jamey Kowalski, Jana Russell, Suzanne La Cour, Tammy J Beaulieu, MH, HHP, Gary MacKenzie, Sally Reinhardt, Nancy Caldarola, Deb Chichester, Colelea Leja-Lea, Sharon Harris, Dev-anand (David) Maharajh, Eva Slomiak, Lorna Haynes, Mary Hill, Diane Schips, Jen CIccolelalla,Stephanie M. Collins, Jim Furey, William Morris, RH, PhD, DAOM, Judy Neff, Jakob Sletteland, Briar Winters, Talal Al Hamad, Dr.  C. Gardner, Tamima Mourad, Alan Slater, Richelle Pultz, Carolyn Hefner PhD ND RN, Mackenzie VanLaar, Rosalee de la Foret, Harridath Maharaj, Alka Deshpande, Robert B. Giles, Jeanne Rose, Kim Falcone, Herbalist, B.Sc., Cheryl Fromholzer, Clinical Herbalist, Yoshinao, Kenton Cobb, Jessica Baker, LAc, RH, T Sean Diesel, Sage LaPena, Nomtipom/ Nomsoos Wintu, Kimberly Padgett Shaw, Sarah Sorci, Glinda A. Rhodes,  Jenny Mansell, Gigi Stafne, Director, Green Wisdom School of Natural & Botanical Medicine, Janet Wolfe, Stacey M. Littlefield, Heather Cunningham, Susan Fickes, Laura L. Miller, Adrienne Totino, Linda Shanahan, Erin Jorgenson, Jessica Anuszkiewicz, SANDRA RHONE, Domini Aalbers, Kathryn Hoover, Mischa Schuler, Pamela Violet Palmer, Susan Daniel, Allison Grier, Adriana P. Perez-The Good Holistic, Nicole Santos, Janet Munson, Sara Amelia Thornton, Susan Stone, Semona lynn, Zauher KARIM, Rebecca Wasserman, Erika Galentin, Elena Pintilie, FreeDom Flowers, Julie James, Jesse LoVasco, Aida Namukasa, Heather W. Locklear, Maria DePriest, Lori Carns Hudson, Kimberly Sleeth, Tina Marie Baber, Gail Faith Edwards, Jennifer Gebhard, Stacey Quade, Joanne Gamble, Marjie Houck, Erin E Ethier Herbalist, Rosie Webb, Mark Blumenthal, Matthew D. Barnack, John J Staversky, Virginia Bormann, Shea Smith, Betzy Bancroft, Pam Leahy, Katie Vincent, Abdoulaye ndiouck, Adaira McInerney, Kathy Gehlken, MA/RDN/CAP, Julie Moulton, Suzanne Tabert - Cedar Mountain Herb School, Roxanne Cheeseman, Richard D. Gitar, Sara Elizabeth Rose, RN, Donna Bellinger Ryan, Linda S Miller, Ruth Glass, Taisen Spring, Fiona Kokich, Kenda Kitchen, Sidra Pauly, Janice Hazeldine PhD, Sarah Gavin, JUAN E. MELENDEZ, susan m hendershot, Jessica Stahle, Deb Huskey, Tania McCoy, Lynda Furey, Monica Wilde, Bradley C Goss, Irene Edreich

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