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The year there was no Boston Marathon.

October 11 is a little different this year. Some people will still be celebrating Columbus Day. (Time, here, explains why some Italians feel positive about the explorer.) Others will recognize Monday as Indigenous People’s Day, honoring the tribes who were here before the arrival of Europeans and the devastation they brought. Rhode Island, for example, plans to use its the PRONK parade to celebrate Native Americans.

And here’s something that hasn’t happened in October before: the Boston Marathon. Erik is running again, so my husband and I will be there, cheering him on.

The Boston Marathon is usually run at the April holiday New Englanders call Patriots Day, the day that in 1775 the “embattled farmers” stood at the North Bridge in Concord “and fired the shot heard ’round the world.”

In 2020, Covid cancelled the Marathon. And 2021 was touch and go, too, until organizers at the Boston Athletic Association decided the pandemic might be under control by October.

Well, it is and isn’t. So there are unusual Marathon protocols in place.

Says the BAA, “Entrants in the 125th Boston Marathon, scheduled for Monday, October 11, will need to either provide proof of vaccination or produce a negative COVID-19 test in order to participate in the fall race. It is strongly recommended that all entrants, staff, and volunteers are vaccinated. Masks will not be required while running the 26.2-mile course, but will be enforced on participant transportation and in other areas in accordance with local guidelines.

“We understand that COVID-19 related-travel restrictions may prevent many international participants from toeing the line in Hopkinton. In recognition of this unique and extenuating circumstance, any Boston Marathon participant who resides outside of the United States can move their entry to the virtual race and be refunded for the difference.

“Prior to bib number pick-up, Boston Marathon participants will be required to either produce proof of a complete vaccination series of a World Health Organization-certified vaccine or produce a negative COVID-19 test, which will be administered on site in a Boston Marathon medical tent.”

According to the Boston Globe, “there will be 14 former champions in the field, with a combined 32 first-place Boston finishes, including two-time men’s winner Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia, as well as countryman Asefa Mengstu, who has the fastest personal best in the field and the 23rd-fastest marathon ever at 2:04:06.

“The women’s field features nine sub-2:22:00 marathoners, including Ethiopia’s Yebrgual Melese, whose 2:19:36 personal best ranks fastest in the field. Melese will have some tough competition from fellow Ethiopian Mare Dibaba, the 2015 world champion and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist.”

If an aspiring runner hasn’t run the required number of previous races at the required times, she or he can still participate if sponsored by a charity and willing to raise money for it. The Globe says, “There are 41 charity organizations, with 2,090 runners, participating. Over the past 32 years, more than $400 million has been raised for charity.”

And here’s an interesting note: “For the only time in its history, the Boston Marathon will take place on Oct. 11 — which is recognized as Indigenous Peoples Day in cities and towns on the route.

“Patti Catalano Dillon, a three-time Boston runner-up and a member of the Mi’kmaq tribe, will be interviewed at Fan Fest Oct. 8 at 1 p.m. about setting the American marathon record at Boston 40 years ago. She also will serve as an official starter.

“A ceremony will be held Oct. 8 to commemorate the 85th anniversary of Ellison Brown’s first of two marathon titles. A banner will be presented to the grandchildren of Brown, who was a member of the Narragansett tribe.”

More at the Globe, here.

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Image: Revery Architecture/Westbank/Squamish First Nation.
2021 artistic rendering of Senakw. The Squamish First Nation has set a goal of housing every member within a generation.

Just before the pandemic, I read at the Guardian about an indigenous-led development for Vancouver, Canada. And yes, it’s still going forward. The market-rate aspect of the development is supposed to fund the parts that benefit the First Nation providing the land. I found a more recent story from the Daily Hive.

Kenneth Chan reports, “By the end of this year, site preparation for construction could begin on the Senakw development. … Squamish First Nation members overwhelmingly voted to approve the massive development on their 12-acre Kitsilano reserve in late 2019. Thus allowing band leaders to seal the partnership with local developer Westbank and continue their work with refining the design concept.

“In an interview with Daily Hive Urbanized, Khelsilem, a spokesperson and councillor of the First Nation, said the heights of several buildings have been increased, including the tallest tower, now up from 56 storeys to 59 storeys at 172 metres (564 ft). … The first of four construction phases will target the westernmost parcel of the reserve — a narrow strip of land between the bridge and Vanier Park. …

“He said, ‘Some of the motifs of the building have been refined to incorporate Squamish culture and identity, and there is starting to be a bit more imagining of where the public gathering spaces will be.’

“The ground plain commercial space component of the project has changed too, with open public courtyards sunken into the landscape, activated by retail, restaurants, cafes, and potentially grocery stores and fitness centres.

“It also takes advantage of the space under the Burrard Street Bridge, using the structure as a cover for an ‘outdoor restaurant,’ gathering areas, a playground, and basketball courts.

“The residential component of the project still carries a total of 6,000 units, possibly enough to house as many as 9,000 people. …

“The housing tenure composition has not been finalized, but Khelsilem maintains purpose-built market rental housing will likely account for at least 70% of the homes. The below-market rental housing component dedicated to Squamish members has grown slightly to roughly 300 units. …

“The First Nation has set a goal of housing every member within a generation, defined as in 25 years. More than half of its 4,000 members live on reserve, and over 1,000 are on the housing waitlist, with the most recent housing allocations offered to members who have been waiting for over three decades.

“Senakw’s non-market housing component for members will help achieve some of this broader goal directly. The real win is that the revenue generated by the market housing will provide the First Nation with the capacity to pursue greater self-determination. It will greatly enhance their ability to provide current members and future generations with more services, such as eldercare, education, and language and culture support. It would also help fund more member housing initiatives beyond this reserve. …

“Khelsilem adds many members have also expressed excitement about the trades training and employment opportunities that will be offered by the construction project.

“ ‘It is important for the public to understand that this is an economic development venture, it is not an affordable housing project. It is an economic development venture so that we can generate significant amounts of revenue to be invested into our community because we’ve been without the means to do it otherwise,’ said Khelsilem. …

“The infusion of thousands of market rental homes at Senakw will serve to improve overall housing affordability in Metro Vancouver by filling some of the demand from moderate-income households.

“ ‘The reality is new market rental housing is affordable for middle class workers and families in Vancouver, and that’s who this housing will be for,’ he said, adding that strong demand for rental housing has persisted even under COVID-19 conditions.”

More at the Daily Hive, here.

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Photo: Chelsey Geralda Armstrong.
An aerial shot of the Sts’ailes forest garden. These forests demonstrate the way that First Nations people in the Pacific Northwest have actively managed natural ecosystems to increase the accessibility of preferred food near their homes.

Today’s story is about how indigenous people in Canada have created “forest gardens” to be able to harvest the traditional food the tribes value.

From the radio show Living on Earth:

“BOBBY BASCOMB: British Columbia is home to lush forests that cover almost two-thirds of the Canadian province. And for some ten thousand years, First Nations peoples made the forests their home. The trees provided much of what the people needed to survive and thrive. After asking permission of towering cedars, Coast Salish and other peoples would harvest bark for weaving and wood to carve canoes and totem poles. But they also carved out special gardens in the forest to grow food and medicinal plants. And new research shows that these forest gardens are still home to abundant biodiversity. …

“DR. CHELSEY GERALDA ARMSTRONG: We live in the Pacific Northwest where you have very contiguous conifer dominant forests … cedar and spruce and hemlock and firs. [But the forest gardens are] broadleaf forests, which are very rare here … maple and birch and then sub canopies of hazelnut and crabapple, all deciduous species. One of the big things that kind of sticks out when you’re in these places is at the right time of year, it’s just like a fruit paradise. There’s so many fruits going, kind of around late August, early September. It is an edible forest without question, and also a lot of medicinal species as well in that understory, things like wild ginger. …

“BASCOMB: And these were gardens cultivated by the Indigenous people that lived there, how did they create them? It sounds like they must have had to travel quite far to bring these different species together in one spot. …

“ARMSTRONG: We don’t know exactly how they were started, or when, how old they are, although we are getting closer to some dates. … Hazelnut, for example, [is] a native species to British Columbia, but it’s found far outside its range in certain forest gardens. But also, people were managing for succession. These types of forest management practices are basically utilizing and capitalizing on natural ecosystem processes. So things like wild raspberries, black huckleberries, Alaska blueberry, oval-leaf blueberry, all these kinds of plants that grow in forest gardens are locally available. And so it’s just about letting those things come back, keeping the competitors out, and then enhancing them with new species. …

“ARMSTRONG: Comparing forest gardens with the surrounding conifer forests, or what we refer to as peripheral forest, it was very clear that overall, forest gardens [were] a lot more biodiverse. … So you can imagine that, in fact, the edge between these two ecosystems are incredibly productive areas.

“BASCOMB: Well, that totally makes sense. I mean, you would expect more biodiversity in an area with, say, maybe a field, next to a forest, with a river running through it. If you have several different ecosystems all in one spot. ….

“ARMSTRONG: We found that forest gardens have a higher frequency of animal-dispersed and animal-pollinated species. So what this means is that forest gardens are the result of animal movement. And of course, humans are included in that category. But on top of that, what this suggests is that after humans left these gardens and villages, in some cases a couple hundred years ago, forest gardens began providing really unique habitat for animals and pollinators seeking food. So what we see here is an example of human land use that actually provides and increases functions across the landscape, rather than depleting it. …

“BASCOMB: Can you tell me about the First Nations people that lived in this area and created these gardens? …

“ARMSTRONG: I worked with two communities, Kitsumkalum, and Kitselas. And, you know, the archaeological record of people living in this area is very, very rich. People have been here for, you know, 10,000 plus years. And for Kitselas, we know that [families] have been in the same canyon area for at least 7,000 years. [But] people were forcibly removed from their communities. A lot of times they moved to the coast to work in canneries, which were, you know, kind of slave-like conditions for people. But they returned, a lot of them, to their communities in the ’50s and ’60s. …

“There are elders in Kitselas that always say, ‘Old villages are really good places to hunt,’ … But basically, these places have not been maintained for, you know, 200 years. … A huge part of our research is actually employing different management strategies, clearing the forest garden areas and getting them back to a place where they can be producing lots of food for people locally.

“BASCOMB: And what did you learn about these forest gardens from the First Nation elders that you spoke with? …

“ARMSTRONG: The elders had pointed me in [the direction of hazelnuts, which I was studying], saying, well, it’s not just hazelnut. [It’s] Pacific crabapple, it’s Saskatoon berries, it’s soapberries. And so, you know, they’re the ones that were leading a lot of this inquiry. And of course, we know from them all the different ethno-botanical uses of plants. … A lot of our research is kind of being led by them and the questions that they have about these places that we can answer.

“BASCOMB: Chelsey Armstrong directs the Historical and Ethnoecological Research, or HER, Lab at Simon Fraser University.”

More at Living on Earth, here.

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Photo: Soul Fire Farm.
Soul Fire Farm is an Afro-Indigenous centered community farm in upstate New York that raises and distributes “life-giving food as a means to end food apartheid.”

Having blogged about this forward-thinking farm in 2019, here, I thought I would go back and check on how it’s doing today. Its focus on food apartheid and climate change are more relevant than ever.

Darryl Fears at the Washington Post interviewed Leah Penniman, a founder of Soul Fire Farm in rural New York.

“A heavy snow was falling here in the Taconic Mountain Range outside Albany when Leah Penniman moved to the farm she bought with her husband. It was the day after Christmas, Penniman recalled, ‘and I cried.’ They were not tears of joy.

“Penniman was having second thoughts. ‘I was, like, can we just stay in Albany?’ Her family had left that city’s impoverished South End community because it was a food desert — devoid of grocery stores with fresh produce or sit-down restaurants. But she worried about losing friends she made there. ‘I wasn’t so sure about this rural thing.’ …

“But as the first seedlings grew at the new Soul Fire Farm, so did she. Today, Penniman, 41, is a leading spokesperson for the movement to increase the ranks of Black, Brown and Indigenous farmers. Hundreds of people are on a waiting list to attend her classes on regenerative farming that reduces carbon emissions and mitigates climate change, refuting a belief that Black people and other underrepresented groups do not want to farm. …

“Leah Penniman’s 2018 book, Farming While Black, a guide to regenerative farming that called America’s paucity of Black farmers ‘food apartheid,’ turned heads. …

“According to its 2019 annual report, Soul Fire Farm Institute trained 120 people of color at week-long farming immersions and 905 activists at workshops. The report also said 675 youngsters learned about farming and food justice.

“Four new small farms are in operation partly as a result of those internships: High Hog Farm in Grayson, Ga., 40 miles northwest of Atlanta; Harriett Tubman Freedom Farm in Whitakers, N.C., 15 miles north of Rocky Mount; Catatumbo Cooperative Farm in South Chicago and Sweet Freedom Farm, about 60 miles south of Soul Fire in New York. …

‘What I’m particularly excited about is the capacity for Afro Indigenous regenerative agriculture to participate in carbon drawdowns,’ Leah Penniman said as she dug up potato plants recently at Soul Fire. ‘So we are demonstrating how to capture carbon in the soil using our ancestral methods of no till and composting, all these fabulous ways of growing food and medicine.’ …

“Penniman is part of a cadre of farmers who are teaching new ways of farming, said Ricardo Salvador, who runs the food and environmental service at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“ ‘Her efforts with Soul Fire Farm are an argument that you don’t have to exploit people, you don’t have to exploit nature and still produce abundant, nourishing food for communities,’ he said. ‘She’s training people who come to the farm, who take short courses or do internships … to rethink access to land.’ …

“Soul Fire Farm, a cooperative with several owners, is a member of the National Black Food and Justice Alliance, 30 farming and food activist groups run by Dara Cooper. …

“Fighting discrimination in American farming is central to what the network does, Cooper said. But so is offsetting climate change.

“According to the Environmental Protection Agency, agriculture accounted for 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. Research has shown that traditional farming practices such as tilling and plowing release carbon dioxide when they cut into the earth. …

“Cooper said activists should be wary of lionizing a single person, a mistake the civil rights movement made with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. But she praised Penniman.

“ ‘There is something very special about Leah,’ Cooper said. ‘She’s a farmer, she’s studied, she’s brilliant, she’s an amazing teacher and educator. Anybody who’s attended her talks are fired up and ready to go afterward.’

“Penniman … plunged her hand into the dirt and held it eye level. ‘There’s worms in this soil,’ she said as one inched toward her bare fingers. ‘There’s nematodes in this soil, all kinds of beneficial organisms.’

“She smiled as she admired the habitat — creepy crawlies, bugs and microbes living healthy lives on her family farm, which rejects using pesticides that kill them.

“The worms and millions of tiny organisms have a symbiotic relationship with dirt, and plants sequester greenhouse gases and convert it to an organic form. Trapped in the ground, the gases cannot rise into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. …

“A Netflix documentary Kiss the Ground noted the finding that a 1 percent increase in organic matter in an acre of soil pulls down about 10 tons of carbon dioxide.

“ ‘Agriculture is the biggest way humans impact our landscape,’ Kristin Ohlson, author of The Soil Will Save Us, says in the film. ‘We have unleashed through agriculture over the centuries millennia of carbon from the land, and now it’s part of that legacy load of carbon dioxide.’ “

Read more about Penniman’s intriguing backstory at the Post, here.

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Photo: NPY Women’s Council.
To combat coronavirus in Australia, “For the first time, Aboriginal health workers were given contact-tracing powers usually reserved for state health authorities.”

Recognizing that plagues of the past had wiped out whole indigenous communities, Australian authorities took action to get ahead of the coronavirus plague — with a particular focus on protecting elders.

At the Washington Post, Rachel Pannett reported on where their results stood in early April.

“From Alaska to the Amazon, Indigenous people are more likely to get sick with or die of covid-19, as the pandemic magnifies deep-rooted health and socioeconomic inequities. That is not the case in Australia.

“Not only have Indigenous Australians recorded far fewer infections per capita than their global counterparts, they are six times less likely than the wider Australian population to contract the coronavirus, government data shows.

“There have been no cases in remote communities, and not a single Aboriginal elder has died. Of the 149 cases involving Indigenous people since the start of the pandemic nationwide, few were serious enough to require hospitalization. …

“The vaccine rollout is also proceeding more smoothly in many Indigenous communities than elsewhere in Australia, where some clinics are complaining of empty vaccine fridges. Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders are being prioritized for vaccinations because of their higher risk of developing serious illness if infected.

“On the first day of the vaccine rollout in Sydney, one Aboriginal clinic booked all of its appointments in an hour, according to Aboriginal health officials. In the remote Australian-controlled islands of the Torres Strait — near Papua New Guinea, which is battling an outbreak — over 80 percent of adults have been vaccinated, officials said.

‘This is a most amazing response to the pandemic from a community that is so marginalized,’ said Fiona Stanley, an Australian epidemiologist specializing in public health. ‘This is probably the best evidence we have that if you put Aboriginal people in charge, then you get better outcomes.’

“First-nation people globally have a painful legacy of disease and its impact on elders, those most responsible for the survival of Indigenous culture. Europeans introduced smallpox and other diseases to the New World starting from around 1500, wiping out much of the Indigenous population. The 1918 flu pandemic destroyed entire villages. …

“The first case of the coronavirus in Australia, in January 2020 — a man from Wuhan, China, who arrived in Melbourne — was a wake-up call for the country, but especially for Australia’s Indigenous leaders. The new virus was striking older people, particularly those with chronic conditions. And being highly contagious, it was likely to spread like wildfire through remote Indigenous communities where overcrowding is common. …

“Pat Turner, chief executive of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization, wrote to state and federal leaders in March 2020, asking them to use their powers to order the closure of remote communities to stop visitors from entering. Accordingly, the communities were sealed off.

“Lawyer Teela Reid kicked off efforts to protect elders in Gilgandra, a rural town 270 miles northwest of Sydney. ‘I could clearly see how catastrophic it could get in the country, if we got one case in our town of 3,000, because we don’t have the health resources,’ Reid said.

“The local municipality compiled a list of elders and made sure they did not need to leave their homes for food or medicines. Reid’s grandmother Stella, the town matriarch who presides over traditional ceremonies, went against her natural instincts and padlocked her gate.

” ‘It was hard for us,’ Reid said. ‘Our grandparents are often the people who raise children. But they also hold our story lines. They’re passed down orally. If you lose that, it’s gone.’ She added, ‘The ways in which many communities acted was through the natural instinct to be a survivor and to protect elders.’

“Before the pandemic, Aboriginal health organizations had been talking with government officials about plans to address a syphilis outbreak using local Indigenous health services. Australia’s chief medical officer at the time, Brendan Murphy, supported the approach, an endorsement that [Dawn Casey, who co-chairs a government task force established to develop a virus plan for Indigenous communities], says helped smooth the way for a community-led approach to the coronavirus.

“On Facebook, TikTok and Vimeo, Aboriginal health agencies launched coronavirus messages — including instructions on cough etiquette and hand hygiene — and interviews with trusted health officials, translated into local languages.”

More here.

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Photo: Landis Brown/The Archive of Healing at UCLA.
The Archive of Healing describes cures, rituals, and healing methods spanning two centuries.

My daughter-in-law and I got interested in a kind of tumeric tea that we bought at the farmers market before Covid. Since then, I’ve tried other kinds of tumeric tea just because I like the weird flavor. And as today’s article points out, tumeric has long been known to reduce inflammation.

At Hyperallergic, Valentina Di Liscia wrote recently about similar tried and (sometimes) true traditional remedies that are featured in something called the Archive of Healing.

“The digital archive features hundreds of thousands of entries describing cures, rituals, and healing methods spanning two centuries, with a focus on protecting Indigenous knowledge from for-profit exploitation.

“The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)’s Archive of Healing, one of the most comprehensive databases of medicinal folklore in the world, is now accessible online. The interactive, searchable website boasts hundreds of thousands of entries describing cures, rituals, and healing methods spanning more than 200 years and seven continents.

“The site … focuses on the preservation of Indigenous traditions and customs related to wellness.

“The project started five decades ago, when former UCLA professors Wayland Hand and Michael Owen Jones led teams of students to document medicinal practices described in university archives, published sources, anthropologists’ field notes, and their own family folklore.

In 1996, the school received a grant to digitize the research — encompassing more than a million handwritten four-by-six note cards — and transform it into a searchable database then known as the ‘Archive of Traditional Medicine.’

“But somehow, the massive trove remained a little-known resource until 2012, when a librarian at UCLA came across the database and alerted Dr. David Delgado Shorter, Professor of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at UCLA. Shorter, who had just published a book based on fieldwork with the Yoeme communities in northwest Mexico and launched a digital tool to help Indigenous people preserve their languages, was ‘blown away’ by the archive.

“ ‘It was just sitting there probably for years without people knowing about it,’ Shorter said in an interview. … ‘In some ways it’s fantastic that no one knew about it, because in this day and age, someone could have created a mining program and simply just pulled all the material from the database,’ he added. … His team safeguarded the data in a secure server.

“One of Shorter’s priorities is protecting Indigenous knowledge from exploitation by for-profit entities, such as pharmaceutical companies. For that reason, some entries in the archive do not mention specific plant names or recipes unless that information is already widely known.

“As dangerous health-related disinformation surged during the coronavirus pandemic, many have become wary of alternative medicine. The archive’s initial compilers were folklorists, not medical doctors, and the website includes a disclaimer that the entries do not constitute medical advice. … Users can flag entries they deem inappropriate. …

“Most importantly, these spices, plants, and other healing methods can deepen our understanding of how different cultures view the body, wellness, and community.

“ ‘The whole goal here is to democratize what we think of as healing and knowledge about healing, and take it across cultures in a way that’s respectful and gives attention to intellectual property rights,’ said Shorter.”

Hooray for librarians who alert people to “treasure troves”! More at Hyperallergic, here.

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Photo: US Department of the Interior.
Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior, is the first Native American to become a cabinet secretary. She served as a representative for New Mexico’s 1st congressional district from 2019 to 2021.

Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe in New Mexico, recently moved from Congress to her pathbreaking role as US Secretary of the Interior. Indigenous people around the country hope she will be able right some wrongs of the past.

In March, National Public Radio (NPR) and the show Living on Earth had stories about this beautiful gift to America from the Laguna Pueblo tribe.

At NPR, Kirk Siegler said, “With so much land under federal control in the West, it’s long been said the secretary of the Interior has much more of a direct affect on most people’s lives than the president. This experience could arguably be multiplied tenfold on reservations.

“In her confirmation hearing earlier this year, Deb Haaland of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico nodded to the fact that the department she now leads was historically used as a tool of oppression toward tribes.

‘This moment is profound when we consider the fact that a former secretary of the Interior once proclaimed his goal to, quote, civilize or exterminate us,’ Haaland said quoting an Interior report from 1851. … ‘I’m a living testament to the failure of that horrific ideology.’

“[Haaland made history] by becoming the first indigenous Interior secretary. She’s promising to begin repairing a legacy of broken treaties and abuses committed by the federal government toward tribes. It’s one pillar of a long and ambitious to-do list of reforms the administration is planning at the sprawling agency that is the federal government’s most direct contact with the nation’s 574 federally recognized — and sovereign — tribes. …

” ‘It feels like we are moving and we are claiming what we could have done a long time ago,’ said Mary Jane Miles, 81, a member of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee in Idaho.

“Miles said a traditional song was sung and there was an impromptu celebration at her tribe’s headquarters the moment Haaland was formally confirmed by the Senate.

“The Nez Perce, or Nimiipuu in their native language, consider much of the Northwest their ancestral land. But through a series of treaties they’re now confined to a small slice of remote Idaho river country. Like most tribes, their land is held in trust by the federal government and leaders here say the U.S. has long shirked its obligation to protect the land, its wildlife and other issues of cultural importance to the tribe.

“Today, the salmon and steelhead trout that were once abundant on the Snake and Clearwater rivers are nearing extinction. Miles also pointed to a legacy of toxic messes from mining that occurred on ancestral Nez Perce land often with little or no consultation by the tribe.

” ‘Sometimes when we look at some of the things that the past has done for our tribe, we’ve noticed that maybe we’ve been taken,’ she said.

“Nationwide, tribal leaders believe the injustices of the past might start to be reversed under Haaland. …

” ‘Protection of this government-to-government relationship is all important to the tribes,’ said Jon Echohawk, executive director and attorney with the Native American Rights Fund in Colorado.

“Echohawk said that relationship is fraught because Interior agencies like the Bureau of Indian Affairs have been chronically underfunded. He says the previous administration also spurned tribal input on major lands decisions like the opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, the Keystone Pipeline and the 85% reduction of the Bears Ears National Monument.

“There is already pressure on the new administration to reinstate Bears Ears in Utah or possibly even expand it beyond its original boundaries. The land is rich with artifacts and other cultural resources considered sacred to many tribes. Haaland has said only she’s planning to travel there next month for a listening tour.

“Traci Morris, executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University, said she expects Haaland to take a measured approach on a lot of controversial issues at Interior given the historic nature of her appointment.

” ‘If she goes in and is radical, you know, who comes behind her, what native comes behind her, all of us will get judged by what she does,’ Morris said.”

Bobby Bascomb, speaking with Haaland at Living on Earth, brought up the subject of fossil fuels because the resistance to the new secretary’s appointment came from supporters of that sector in Congress.

Haaland said, “There’s no question that fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come. I know how important oil and gas revenues are to critical services. But we must also recognize that the energy industry is innovating, and our climate challenge must be addressed. Together we can work to position our nation and all of its people for success in the future.”

More at NPR, here, and at Living on Earth, here.

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Photo: Rainer Jensen/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images.
A visitor walks through the exhibition of Aboriginal artist John Mawurndjul at the Sprengel Museum in Germany.

As much as we have appreciated seeing the art of indigenous people around the world, it can’t be right for museums and collectors just to help themselves. In the US, many items now being returned have religious significance for tribes or were raided from burial sites.

Perhaps as art gets repatriated, native communities will show some of the works in their own way. In any case, one country has big plans to get Aboriginal art back from overseas. Tessa Solomon writes at the Art Newspaper that Australia is putting serious money behind repatriation of artifacts.

“The Australian government has pledged A$10.1 million (about $7.2 million) in additional funds over four years toward the return Indigenous cultural heritage objects held in collections overseas. The pilot program was launched in 2018 with a A$2 million ($1.4 million) budget by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), a national institution that supports the cultural resurgence of Australia’s native peoples.

” ‘We wanted to help the nation understand that there was an Indigenous perspective on this history,’ Lyndall Ley, the executive director of the institution’s Return of Cultural Heritage project, told the Art Newspaper.

“The project’s first two years were focused on artifacts held in public collections overseas and will now expand to facilitate the return of objects held in private collections. According to Ley, a U.K.-based collector made the first private repatriation, retuning eight secular artifacts of the Australia’s Yindjibarndi community. …

“A report released in September by AIATSIS under the title Return of Cultural Heritage 2018-20 identified 199 overseas institutions with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage collections — collectively containing around 100,000 secular and ceremonial Indigenous objects. Some 33 percent of these objects are held in U.K. collections.

Of the 199 institutions identified by the report, 44 expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of returning Indigenous artifacts to their respective communities.

“The project’s second phase kicks off amid renewed interest. … In March, Arts Council England asked the Institute of Art and Law to develop guidance for U.K. museums on restitution, including advice on ‘dealing with claims and making decisions on the potential return of objects.’

“France voted this earlier this year to pass a bill to return 27 artifacts from French museums to Benin and Senegal. The vote followed a 2018 report on the repatriation of African artifacts commissioned by President Macron from the French historian Bénédicte Savoy and Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr, which recommended the restitution by French museums of works in their collections taken ‘without consent’ unless the institutions can prove the objects where acquired legitimately from former African colonies. Macron pledged in a speech in Burkina Faso that his government would facilitate ‘the temporary or definitive restitution of African heritage to Africa’ within five years.”

More at the Art Newspaper, here

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Photo: Tayler Gutierrez.
Earrings beaded onto smoked hide by the Cherokee artist Tayler Gutierrez.

You’re probably tired of all the whistling in the dark about good things that have come from lockdown when you know the past year has been mostly bad. But I wouldn’t want you to miss this cheerful story about indigenous beadworkers finding a market on Instagram during the pandemic.

Anna V. Smith reports on the phenomenon at the New York Times. “Last year, after the museum that Tayler Gutierrez worked at in Salt Lake City closed temporarily because of the coronavirus, she turned to her beadwork.

“A citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Ms. Gutierrez, 24, had been practicing beadwork for years after learning from a mentor, the Diné poet Tacey Atsitty, and she already had a modest following on her Instagram page, where she posted her custom hat brims, earrings and leather pouches.

“But when the museum reopened in May, Ms. Gutierrez decided to take a much bigger leap: She put in her resignation notice and committed full-time to her craft. In July, she dropped her first collection of beadwork on Instagram; it included a set of earrings layered with two-tiers of dentalium shells and Swarovski crystals, and another pair with blooming flowers stitched with beads onto moose hide.

“With relatively few followers, she wasn’t expecting many people to buy. Instead, everything sold in five minutes.

“Ms. Gutierrez was shocked but thrilled — especially after the months of labor and love she had put into the work. (It takes around eight hours to make one pair of floral beaded earrings.) …

“Ms. Gutierrez just started her business ‘Kamama Beadwork last year, but she is one of many Indigenous beadwork artists on Instagram who have seen a spike in followers and sales that far outpaces their available stock.

“Partially, that’s because with craft fairs, powwows and art markets shuttered, many vendors and buyers are relying more heavily on the internet, [including] e-commerce websites like From the People, which launched in May as an online market space for Indigenous artists.

“Sales have been spurred by a national dialogue around racial injustice that has led to increased efforts to support Black and Indigenous artists and businesses. …

“As the Ojibwe fashion writer Christian Allaire has documented, the beading world is full of Indigenous artists blending traditional methods and contemporary forms: for example, Jamie Okuma and her beaded Louboutin stilettos; Skye Paul and her tattoo-inspired beaded patches or cow print beaded fringe earrings; and Tania Larsson’s fine jewelry made from musk ox horn and other natural materials of the Canadian Arctic.

“On Instagram, these artisans and others have amassed huge followings; when they drop collections or individual pieces, they sell out in minutes. Followers set alarms, pre-log into PayPal and have to buy as soon as the goods are available if they want a chance to snag anything at all. Recently, the same is true for Indigenous artists with half the amount of followers, including Ms. Gutierrez.

“Jaymie Campbell of White Otter Design Co. is one beadwork artist who has perfected the art of the Instagram drop. … As a full-time beader, Ms. Campbell made an Instagram account in 2016, a year after starting her business. At the time, there were seemingly fewer accounts by fellow artists, Ms. Campbell said. But that’s changed somewhat suddenly, as the isolation of the pandemic has connected more people in the digital sphere.

Virtual beading circles — online versions of community gatherings where beaders share techniques — have popped up, and many artists have experienced a surge in followers.

“ ‘The growth has been unprecedented, in my experience,’ Ms. Campbell said from her home in New Denver, British Columbia (population 473). On Indigenous People’s Day alone she gained over 2,000 followers from people promoting her work on social media.

“But in beadwork economics, more demand doesn’t necessarily mean more supply — and that is an important aspect of the work itself. As the Indigenous studies scholar and bead artist Malinda J. Gray, who is Anishinaabe Ojibwe Caribou Clan, from the Lac Seul Band, has written: ‘Beadwork encompasses a temporality that transcends the capitalist view of exchange.’

“Beadwork knowledge, materials and motifs are passed down through generations, Ms. Gray said, and those layers of time, meaning and memories give a piece of work ‘its own essence. And that’s something that cannot be mass produced.’ ”

And now for a word from our “sponsor”: Suzanne also sells jewelry on Instagram @lunaandstella, where you can find gorgeous antique heart lockets for Valentine’s Day. Or go to the website, here.

More at the New York Times, here.

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Photo: Nobu Koch/ Sealaska Heritage
Haida artist Sgwaayaans TJ Young paints the cedar house post he created called “Waasguu (Seawolf) hunting two killerwhales.”

It makes me happy when people are proud of their culture, especially people who have long felt marginalized. Today in Alaska, increasing numbers of indigenous residents are embracing their history and art.

Jennifer Nalewicki writes at the Smithsonian, “A community-wide effort began in Juneau in late 2017, when Sealaska Heritage Institute, a private nonprofit that promotes cultural diversity through the arts and public services, announced its plans to make ‘Juneau the Northwest Coast arts capital of the world.’ They’d meet this goal through the promotion and support of several Indigenous cultures that are strongly interwoven into the fabric of the region, and whose works exemplify this artistic style.

“By definition, Northwest Coast art is recognizable by its usage of ‘formline designs,’ according to The Canadian Encyclopedia, or ‘the continuous, flowing, curvilinear lines that turn, swell and diminish in a prescribed manner.’ The term was coined by art historian and author Bill Holm in his 1965 book Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form. Indigenous artists, particularly the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples, … apply this style of art in everything from drawings and paintings to sculptures and weavings. …

“A closer look at Juneau reveals a city populated by art museums, galleries, murals and statues promoting the artistic endeavors of local artists. Public art can be seen all over the city, from the Old Witch totem pole created by Haida carver Dwight Wallace in 1880 that creeps up the side of the State Office Building to the ‘Raven Discovering Mankind in a Clam Shell’ mural by painter Bill Ray, Jr. located on the side of the City Municipal Building. …

“One of the first steps Sealaska Heritage took to reach its goal occurred in 2015, when it opened phase one of its Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus. … Once complete, the 6,000-square-foot campus will [comprise] both indoor and outdoor spaces that are designed for artists to create different mediums of Northwest Coast art, both on a small and ‘monumental scale,’ the latter of which will include totem poles and canoes. …

Photo: Nobu Koch/ Sealaska Heritage
Ravenstail and Chilkat weaver Lily Hope works on a Chilkat robe.

“Lily Hope, a Juneau native known for her colorful and intricate weavings that have been on display at the Alaska State Museum, Portland Art Museum and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, is hopeful that Juneau’s Indigenous art scene will get the recognition that it deserves. As a member of the Tlingit people, she has been weaving since she was 14 years old, when her late mother taught her the craft.

“Now 40, Hope continues their legacy by weaving arm bands, face masks and jewelry using techniques she mastered while working alongside her mother for many years. Hope also serves as the president and co-founder of Spirit Uprising, a nonprofit ‘dedicated to preserving the integrity of Ravenstail and Chilkat weaving.’ …

“ ‘Our focus is on art forms that were starting to become extinct,’ [Rosita Worl, president of Sealaska Heritage,] says. ‘We want Northwest Coast art to be recognizable and to be everywhere. We’re working with our local congressional district to try to get it to become a designated national treasure. … We want art everywhere in our community, from street signs around Juneau to pieces on street corners. When people visit Juneau, we want them to be excited about our art.’ “

More at the Smithsonian, here.

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Photo: Allison Stocks
Recent carbon dating has revealed that the oldest clam garden known to science was built about 3,500 years ago,” says the Guardian. It’s in Canada’s Vancouver area.

I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy the verbal style some indigenous people use when speaking of traditional ways or of ancestors. If it is not disrespectful to say so, it transports me to a place in the imagination where wizards and Hobbits reside — different from my own place in a way that feels both magical and close to Nature.

In Vancouver, Adrienne Matei writes for the Guardian, “On winter nights for the past six years, a group of 20 people have rustled through dark, coniferous woods to emerge on a Canadian beach at the lowest possible tide, illuminated by a correspondingly full moon.

“An elder offers a greeting to the place and a prayer, then the team of researchers, volunteers, and First Nations ‘knowledge holders’ lights a warming fire and begins its work. At sites outlined by stones placed hundreds or even thousands of years ago, some begin raking, or ‘fluffing,’ the top three inches of the beach, loosening rocks and mud — and a remarkable number of old clam shells.

“When the tide comes back in, it will flush out any rotting organic matter, changing ‘some places that are compact and smelly into a good clam beach again.’ says Skye Augustine, a member of the Stz’uminus First Nation.

“This spot was once a clam garden, an ancient indigenous form of mariculture that coastal First Nations people have used for millennia. It is estimated that they once numbered in the thousands along the Pacific north-western coast, though ruins are all that’s left of most. In collaboration with the W̱SÁNEĆ and Hul’q’umi’num nations, Augustine has spearheaded the first formal clam garden rehabilitations at two sites in the Gulf Islands, in British Columbia, with dozens more to follow.

‘My elders articulated to me that if we want to bring our beaches back to life again, we need to bring people back on to them to care for them as they have been cared for in the past.

” ‘That became my inspiration for my education and career,’ she says. ‘How do we make this clam garden thing happen?’

“For millennia pre-colonization, clam gardens epitomized sustainable food security for Pacific north-western coastal nations from northern Washington to south-eastern Alaska. Modern studies have found that clam gardens have historically been up to 300% more productive than unmodified beaches, that their clams grew larger and faster than average, and that the clams did not exhibit any signs of resource stress from over-harvesting.

“To create the beaches, indigenous people built rock walls parallel to a beach’s low tide line, which would trap sediment and flatten the slope of the shore. With continuing tending, such as tilling to improve aeration and the removal of predators like sea stars, these gardens increase or create habitat for butter, littleneck, and horse clams, as well as crabs, chitons, seaweeds, and other useful species.

“Recent carbon dating has revealed that the oldest clam garden known to science was built about 3,500 years ago. …

“ ‘It has always been our duty to be the stewards of the land,’ says group member Nicole Norris, a knowledge holder for the Hul’q’umi’num and an aquaculture specialist. ‘It is the exact same land my ancestors walked. … From the work that we’ve done, we’ve seen the greater ecosystem return – some of the people who live in the local communities have talked about the return of certain birds and plants, and that’s been heartwarming,’ she says.

“In addition to providing food, clam gardens have historically provided the opportunity for ‘grandparents, aunties, and uncles to spend time at the beach with their grandchildren and younger generations, not only teaching about how to tend the environment … but sharing stories, language, spiritual ties to the place,’ says Melissa Poe, who specializes in the social and cultural dimensions of ecosystems at the University of Washington.”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Jack Plant
A spirit bear in British Columbia. “A recent study revealed that the white bear is rarer and more vulnerable than previously thought.” says the
Guardian.

When my grandchildren were old enough for a story but young enough for “The Three Bears,” I often created variations on demand. The youngest granddaughter in particular had a range of complicated story lines she wanted to hear, in which Baby Bear had her name and an older brother bear had her brother’s name.

Because almost everyone likes stories about bears, I’m telling three today. All true.

Alexandra Harvey reported the first story for the Guardian. “When Marven Robinson was a kid, any mention of spirit bears was met with hushed dismissal from the elders in his community, the Gitga’at First Nation of Hartley Bay, British Columbia. Since the 19th century, Indigenous peoples in the area learned to keep the bears with ghostly coats a secret to protect them from fur traders.

“As the ancient legend goes, the Wee’get (meaning the ‘raven,’ known as the creator of the world) turned every 10th black bear white to remind people of the pristine conditions of the Ice Age.

“Spirit bears are white-coated black bears that inherit their pale fur from a rare recessive gene. Known as moksgm’ol, meaning ‘white bear, spirit bears are sacred to the Indigenous people who live in the Great Bear Rainforest. …

“A recent collaborative study by the Kitasoo/Xai’xais and Gitga’at First Nations and academic researchers has revealed that the white bear is rarer and more vulnerable than previously thought.

“Researchers spent eight years combing 18,000sq km of the rainforest, placing lures on barbed wire to collect hair samples from black and spirit bears and map out the presence of the white bear gene. … The study concluded the gene that causes spirit bears is up to 50% rarer than previously thought. Urgently, about half of spirit bear hotspots fall outside of British Columbia protected areas, making their habitats vulnerable to logging, mining and drilling projects.

“Spirit bears have long been present in First Nations traditional song, dance, and storytelling. … Before he saw a spirit bear for himself, Douglas Neasloss, co-author of the study and resource stewardship director for the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation, doubted they even existed. When he was 17, he went in search of spirit bears, half in jest, with some friends.

‘I just thought they were pulling my leg,’ Neasloss said. …

“Sure enough, as he was walking through the forest, he saw one of the magical white bears making its way toward him, sun shining through the trees, salmon hanging out of its mouth. From that moment on, he knew they had to be protected. …

Research by University of Victoria scientists found, because of their white color, spirit bears have a unique advantage over black bears when catching salmon since they blend into the daylight. Spirit bears’ propensity for catching salmon helps explain their resilience despite being so rare, says Christina Service, wildlife biologist for Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation Stewardship Authority and lead author on the spirit bear study.

“Worryingly, climate change is wiping away salmon stocks, posing a big threat to bears’ food supply. British Columbia’s Pacific salmon populations have declined by over 80% since the 1990s. Neasloss says 2020 has been the worst year yet.

“Equipped with new information about the vulnerability of spirit bears, the question now is how best to protect them. For Neasloss and many others who know the bears intimately, the answer is obvious: Leave it up to the First Nations, the original stewards of the land. … Neasloss is involved in efforts to create a new land designation for the rainforest called an Indigenous Protected Area, a conservation strategy that is gaining traction across Canada. …

“ ‘For the last 150 years, we’ve been on the outside looking in,’ Neasloss says. ‘Drawing a line on the map does not protect an area. The people do.’ ” More at the Guardian, here.

For the second of my three bear stories, I offer one from CNN, where Anna Chernova and Lianne Kolirin wrote, “The perfectly preserved remains of an Ice Age cave bear have been discovered in the Russian Arctic — the first example of the species ever to be found with soft tissues intact. The astonishing find was made by reindeer herders on the Lyakhovsky Islands, which are part of the New Siberian islands archipelago in Russia’s Far North.”

Interesting that indigenous people are involved in that story, too, and that they’re sharing their information with nonindigenous scientists.

There are no indigenous people involved in my third story, as far as I know. According to Travis Anderson at the Boston Globe, a bear has raided a Covid food pantry at a Westhampton, Massachusetts, church. Quoting the church’s website, he writes, “This week the bears decided that they had more need of the food bank than we did, so we’ve had to temporarily disband services.”

The church is looking for a new site.

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Photo: Annette Ruzicka/ Guardian
Ngarinyin children playing in a region of Australia that’s reclaiming indigenous place names.

As a fan of efforts to preserve rare languages, I believe that using native people’s names for geographical places is also important. Brian Friel captures the concept in Translations, his play about English soldiers changing place names in Ireland: “It can happen that a civilisation can be imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape of … fact.”

Colonists always try to impose their culture, but in the end, it is unlikely to turn out well.

At the Guardian series “Indigenous Investigations,” Annette Ruzicka reports in a photo essay that the reinstatement of traditional place names in a region of Australia “signals a new wave of empowerment” for aboriginal people called the Ngarinyin.

“Hit the Gibb River Road out of Derby, Western Australia, and you find yourself heading towards the northern Kimberley plateau, a breathtaking landscape of sandstone ranges, rivers and boab-dotted savannah country. About 63,000 sq km of this land is Wilinggin country of the Ngarinyin people and their connection to country dates back 60,000 years.

“One of the first stops towards Wilinggin country passes the Queen Victoria Head – a rock formation bearing an uncanny resemblance to the famous monarch. While it’s a blunt reminder of colonialism, it’s also the gateway to an area that until very recently had far more dubious name – the King Leopold Ranges, named after the Belgian king responsible for grievous atrocities, brutal oppression and enslavement of African people. …

“After two years of work behind the scenes, traditional owner groups made some new headlines with a historic name change to the Wunaamin Miliwundi Ranges. It’s a hybrid name to represent both the Ngarinyin (Wunaamin) and Bunuba (Miliwundi) traditional names.

“Since then, another seven places in this conservation park have changed back to their Ngarinyin name.

“Since the Wanjina Wunggurr Wilinggin native title determination in 2004, the Ngarinyin people have made significant moves to empower their community and return to, and care for, country. One of the first things they set up after determination was an Indigenous ranger program: the Wunggurr Rangers.

“Ngarinyin man Robin Dann was one of the first rangers employed and is now head ranger, living on country in the Ngallagunda community, with his family. His younger brother Kane Nenowatt is more recent addition to the Wunggurr rangers while his wife, Tanya Spider, sits on the Wilinggin board of directors. …

“One of locations changed back to its traditional name is (the formerly named) Barker pool, now Dudungarri mindi. The name refers to the dreamtime story of the Wanjina spirit and the Yawarlngarri jirri (blue catfish) which live in this pool. This represents a rich and ancient history that Ngarinyin people hope to share with visitors alongside the staggering beauty of the region. …

“With it comes a genuine economy: employment and investment brought to the region by the people themselves. With a second ranger group on the way, the determination of the Ngarinyin people to stand on their own is a shining light in an uncertain world.” More at the Guardian, here.

On Facebook, I started following a different group of Australian indigenous people, NPY Women’s Council. The home page says it “is led by women’s law, authority and culture to deliver health, social and cultural services for all Anangu.” In one post, Nellie Patterson reported, “We went to the Olympics so that all the people there would see the strength of who we are. The Olympic experience has made us strong with a resolve that has never been shaken since.

“We did a really important inma (ceremony) in Sydney and we did it with the intention of making a deep impression on the people who saw it and in the hope of better relationships and collaborations with other people in the future. It was a very important occasion.

“My sister carried a great deal of valuable knowledge and she and I made this inma available through Women’s Council for the benefit of everyone across the country.” For more about the council, click here.

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Otters!

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Photo: Isabelle Groc
Historical records show that otters were once abundant in California’s estuaries. Now they’re back — and bringing surprising benefits.

This is a story about America’s smallest marine mammals and how they are improving ecosystems.

Isabelle Groc reports at the Guardian, “When Brent Hughes started studying the seagrass beds of Elkhorn Slough, an estuary in Monterey Bay on California’s central coast, he was surprised by what he found. In this highly polluted estuary, excessive nutrients from agricultural runoff spur the growth of algae on seagrass leaves, which kills the plants. Yet in 2010, Hughes noticed that the seagrass beds were thriving. It did not make sense. …

“Hughes [a biologist at Sonoma State University] examined every possible factor, including water quality, temperature and changes in seagrass coverage over time, going back 50 years. He was not making any progress until he was approached by a boat captain named Yohn Gideon who had been running wildlife tours in the slough since 1995. Over the years, the captain had handed clickers to his passengers, asking them to count the sea otters they saw.

Hughes overlaid the captain’s sea otter counts with historical seagrass coverage data and realised the two graphs were almost perfectly in sync. When sea otter numbers went up, seagrass went up, too.

“ ‘You don’t see that very often in ecology. That was a eureka moment.’ …

“Sea otters may be North America’s smallest marine mammal, but they have a huge appetite. … When the otters first moved into the slough in the 1980s, they put their big appetites to work eating crabs. With fewer crabs to prey on them, the California sea hares – a sea slug – grew larger and became more abundant. The slugs fed on the algae growing on the seagrass, leaving the leaves healthy and clean. …

“Since the otters arrived in the slough, the seagrass has recovered and increased by more than 600% in the past three decades.

“Sea otters had already shown that they were capable of a large influence on the ecosystem. In the 1970s, biologist James Estes was conducting research in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and noticed some areas where the seafloor was covered with sea urchins. As herbivores, urchins feed on kelp, and when their numbers are not kept in check by predators, no kelp remains. In contrast, in places where sea otters were present, kelp forests were thriving. …

“But the discovery that sea otters could also be important players in estuaries came as an ecological surprise. In fact, scientists had not even expected sea otters to survive in an estuary. … Since the otters were first recovering in kelp forests along the open coast, the scientists who studied the animals assumed that this was their primary habitat. When they started turning up in Elkhorn Slough in the 1980s, they thought that was an anomaly, failing to realise that they were in fact reoccupying old habitats. …

“Estuaries were not even considered in the US fish and wildlife service’s plan for the recovery of the sea otter in California, listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act. … In the past decade, the expansion of sea otters on the California coast has been curbed unexpectedly by the presence of the great white sharks. …

“Estuaries could provide otters with an important refuge from sharks and other unfavourable coast conditions, such as storms and warming events. …

“ ‘Once fully recovered, between a quarter and one third of the entire population in California could be accounted for by otters living in estuaries,’ [Tim Tinker, a wildlife biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz,] says. …

“However, the benefits are not felt equally, especially among indigenous communities who rely on shellfish harvesting for food security.

“ ‘Sea otter recovery is different from the recovery of any other species because they have such disproportionally big effects on the ecosystem,’ Tinker says. ‘For most depleted species you are just worried about the conservation of the species but with sea otters, you are thinking how the entire ecosystem is going to change when they recover.’ ”

More.

Hat tip: Earle.

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merlin_171325053_7e964ad6-9a5e-4fbb-a992-81804bd3bb07-superjumbo

Photo: Lauren Justice for the New York Times
“Faced with grocery shortages,” reports the
New York Times, “many Native Americans have started collecting seeds to plant in their gardens at home.” Among members of the Oneida Nation, white corn, above, is prized for its versatility and nutrient density. 

As many of us non-gardeners start to wonder if we could grow tomatoes and lettuce in the kitchen window, we look with envy at people who can feed themselves without grocery stores.

Recently I read an article in the New York Times by Priya Krishna about indigenous Americans who, although suffering in the pandemic like the rest of us, at least have ancient wisdom they can dust off to help them survive.

“For the roughly 20,000 members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation — a vast, two million-acre expanse in southern South Dakota — social distancing is certainly feasible. Putting food on the table? Less so.

“Getting to food has long been a challenge for Pine Ridge residents. For a lot of people, the nearest grocery store is a two-hour drive away. Many rely on food stamps or the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, a federal initiative that provides boxes of food (historically lacking in healthy options) to low-income families. Diabetes rates run very high.

“The coronavirus crisis [has] only made access to food harder, as shelves of the few groceries empty out, shipments of food boxes are delayed because of supply chain disruptions, and hunting and gathering are restricted by government regulations and environmental conditions.

“But the Oglala Sioux, like many other Native Americans across the country, are relying on the practices — seed saving, canning, dehydrating — that their forebears developed to survive harsh conditions with limited supplies. …

“Big-box stores and processed foods have eroded some of the old customs. But now, faced with a disrupted food system, many Native Americans are looking to those traditions for answers.

“Milo Yellow Hair, who lives in Wounded Knee, S.D., on the Pine Ridge Reservation, is hard at work preparing 8,000 seedlings of local varieties of squash and corn — hearty crops with a short growing time — to plant in people’s yards. …

‘Here on the reservation it is a day-by-day existence,’ said Mr. Yellow Hair, 70, who works for the nonprofit Slim Buttes Agricultural Development Program. ‘If this thing goes crazy and the external food services stop, the food we grow locally is going to be paramount to meet this need.’ …

“The coronavirus emergency is dire on the Navajo Nation in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, which as of [April 13] had 698 cases and 24 deaths. …

“The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa has a strong tradition of canning local crops like beets, cucumbers and carrots, and some families are known for their expertise. Many are now donating their stockpiles to those on the reservation in need.

“ ‘You don’t think twice about it,’ said [Jamie Azure, the tribal chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, in Belcourt, N.D. ]. ‘And then when the Covid-19 threat comes through, you realize how important all of this is.’

“In Alaska, the Athabaskan peoples have long dealt with brutal, protracted winters by preserving produce and freezing meats. Cynthia Erickson, who is Athabaskan and an owner of the only grocery store in her village, Tanana, has a freezer full of moose, caribou and whitefish. But she has been struggling to get her usual wholesale suppliers to fill orders. The tribe may ask Gov. Mike Dunleavy to open moose hunting season (which normally begins in August or September) early if the food supply runs low, she said. …

“After much of his work dried up, Brian Yazzie, a private chef in St. Paul who is Navajo, decided to volunteer at the Gatherings Café in Minneapolis, which is feeding Native American seniors. He is cooking almost exclusively with traditional Native ingredients, making stew out of tepary beans from Ramona Farms in Sacaton, Ariz., and cooking elderberries into a sauce for barbecue chicken.

‘Indigenous peoples survived colonization, and so has our food and ingredients,’ said Mr. Yazzie, 33. ‘Practicing our foodways is a sign of resiliency.’ …

” ‘As this pandemic continues to grow,’ [says Chelsey Luger, who co-founded an indigenous wellness program with her husband], ‘I can tell you that I feel safer on the reservation than anywhere else.’ ”

More at the New York Times. here.

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