Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources

Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources

Language: English

Pages: 558

ISBN: 0520280431

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


John Muir was an early proponent of a view we still hold today—that much of California was pristine, untouched wilderness before the arrival of Europeans. But as this groundbreaking book demonstrates, what Muir was really seeing when he admired the grand vistas of Yosemite and the gold and purple flowers carpeting the Central Valley were the fertile gardens of the Sierra Miwok and Valley Yokuts Indians, modified and made productive by centuries of harvesting, tilling, sowing, pruning, and burning. Marvelously detailed and beautifully written, Tending the Wild is an unparalleled examination of Native American knowledge and uses of California's natural resources that reshapes our understanding of native cultures and shows how we might begin to use their knowledge in our own conservation efforts.

M. Kat Anderson presents a wealth of information on native land management practices gleaned in part from interviews and correspondence with Native Americans who recall what their grandparents told them about how and when areas were burned, which plants were eaten and which were used for basketry, and how plants were tended. The complex picture that emerges from this and other historical source material dispels the hunter-gatherer stereotype long perpetuated in anthropological and historical literature. We come to see California's indigenous people as active agents of environmental change and stewardship. Tending the Wild persuasively argues that this traditional ecological knowledge is essential if we are to successfully meet the challenge of living sustainably.
 

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Grinding slicks, which are smooth, shiny surfaces on flat, stationary boulders, were used to mill grass grains as well as other plant foods such as fleshy fruits and greens. An oblong, cylindrical hand stone was rolled over the grains on the slick, breaking and removing the chaff. Rock outcrops on ranch-lands in Riverside County and many other areas throughout California are riddled with these polished, shiny surfaces. Archaeologists tell us that they are ancient kitchen counters and that the

Driver reported for the Wiyot that “[b]urning [occurred] every two or three years, to get better berry and seed crops, and to increase feed for deer.” The Pit River burned fields and forests to drive game and stimulate growth of seed and berry plants. Peri and colleagues reported that the Pomo people burned manzanita shrubs and that the berries provided food, the leaves provided medicines, and the branches were used for clubs. They also documented the pruning of huckleberry and the burning and

of river burned one year, other side following year.” For Mojave burning of tules along the Colorado River, see Möllhausen 1858. 45. For burning of tule areas for diseases, see Mathewson 1998. 46. Sutter 1939:97, 113. Taylor [1850] 1968:73. 47. On the importance of bulrushes to wildlife, see Martin, Zim, and Nelson 1951. On the enhancement of wetlands with controlled burning, see Schlichtemeier 1967. For succession in wetlands, see Odum 1969; Noble and Slayter 1980. 48. For burning tule ponds

Wierzbicki, F. P. [1849] 1970. California as It Is and as It May Be: Or a Guide to the Gold Region. New York: Burt Franklin. Wieslander, A. E., and C. H. Gleason. 1954. Major Brushland Areas of the Coast Ranges and Sierra-Cascade Foothills of California. Miscellaneous Paper PSW-15. Berkeley, Calif.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. Wilke, P. J. 1993. Bow staves harvested from juniper trees by Indians of Nevada. In Before the

of thousands of women, could turn over and aerate large areas of soil in meadows, coastal prairies, or valley grasslands—greatly affecting the composition and densities of the species found there. Neither should the seed beater be underestimated in terms of its potential effects on California vegetation. The seed beater is a shallow basket with a handle, made of the branches of sourberry (Rhus trilobata), buck brush (Ceanothus cuneatus), or other shrubs. The basket is thrust over the spike or

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