Monday, January 04, 2016

Native Perspectives on Sustainability: Dennis Martinez

"There’s a tendency to think of nature as pristine. I think people are beginning to realize that there are very few places on this globe that one could adequately describe as pristine. The anthropogenic (humanized) landscape has been around for not just tens of thousands of years, but hundreds of thousands of years...
If the elders were to come back now from the spirit world, they would look around and say, “There’s nobody taking care of this place.”
Native Perspectives on Sustainability: Dennis Martinez (O'odham/Chicano/Anglo)
Interviewee: Dennis Martinez
Interviewer: David E. Hall Date: 1/03/08

DH (25:00): “If you are in a conversation with someone who is unfamiliar with the concept of sustainability, are there any brief stories or analogies that you might share to help them understand that idea?”
DM: “Well, I gave you one, the one of the grey willow and Mayan agroforestry. It can be multiplied many times. When you go in and dig those underground corms (bulbs) for edible camas, etc., and many other plants that grow in the ground, the women that dug those were also cultivating the ground. They were aerating the soil, they were mixing nutrients in the surface and they burned periodically to replenish the nutrient supply. Even though some nutrients volatize into the air following burning, in the long run this is a way intended for these ecosystems, and prairie systems, and wetland systems in maintaining the turnover in nutrients.
   When people hunted, they would draw a large circle of fire, like in the Willamette valley or around here, around deer or elk, they wouldn’t always take the best males like people do now with trophy hunting, they would take the more fair and middling ones because they understood enough about genetics to know that they needed the strongest ones to continue the health of the herd.
    When they would burn for the prairie plants that they needed culturally, medicine, food, etc., tobacco, you know, all of the things they needed, and habitat as well, for the wildlife that they depended on, they would often back-burn around conifer growth, like for example Douglas Fir in the Willamette Valley. They would be burning for oak protection, acorn production, but they would also back-burn so that they wouldn’t burn up the Douglas Fir forest, because that was thermal cover for the elk and deer in the hot summer days. We could go on and on. You get the idea, that people understood something about giving back and the act of using. They also were saving certain plants that were of a utilitarian value to the tribe. But they were also taught to respect all life, all plants and animals, as a gift of the creator, and that anyone that was greedy, or that anyone who damaged plants unnecessarily, or killed game unnecessarily was considered the worst kind of human being…”

    "Dennis Martinez grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, on a ranch where he experienced a "rich subsistence life." Martinez closely identifies with an inter-tribal community of people in Southwestern Oregon who work to restore traditional lands and cultures. He currently lives in the Klamath Mountains of Northern California. Over the past 40 years, Martinez has contributed extensively to the cause of ecological and cultural restoration at the local, national and international levels. A community organizer, speaker and author, Martinez is recognized as a leader in bridging Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) with Western science. As co-director of the Takelma Intertribal Project, Martinez and Agnes Pilgrim (Siletz) reestablished the annual Salmon Thanksgiving Ceremony after a 150 year absence. A former board member of the Society for Ecological Restoration International (SER), Martinez is now Chair of the SER's Indigenous Peoples' Restoration Network, and has been involved with numerous other organizations and causes. Martinez was recognized for his work as recipient of the John Rieger Service Award from SER, a 2001 Bioneers award, and as an Honoree of the 2001 Buffett Award for Indigenous Leadership."

    "Of O'odham, Crow, and Chicano descent Dennis Martinez, an ecosystem restorationist, contract seed collector, and vegetation surveyor, as well as the founder of the Indigenous Peoples' Restoration Network, writes, "The latest Indian burning in Northern California and Southern Oregon was in the 1940’s. When Henry Lewis did his 1973 study of the patterns of Indian burning in California, there were people living who remembered why they burned. Now their children, who are in their 60’s and 70’s, remember burning, but they don’t remember the control techniques or the objectives. So we may have lost that knowledge.
   At Three Fires Walpole Island Reserve (Ojibway, Potawattomi, Ottawa), they never stopped burning. Ontario’s 70 endangered species are found in quantity in 2,200 hectares on Walpole Island. This is amazing to botanists, who come there from all over the world to see what a “pristine” landscape can be like. But the people are part of that “pristine” quality. They’re still performing their role in the ecosystem, so the biodiversity is incredibly high.It’s the only place in Ontario where you can find biodiversity that high..."
More about Martinez that appeared previously on this blog:

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