Day 4 – Plants, Trees, and Water

For Keynote Talk abstracts for Day 2 please see here

Panel #1

“Indigenous Connection to the Land: Conflict between Traditional Knowledge and Lands Use Mapping Processes”

Randy Restoule, Dokis First Nation

The Indigenous Communities of Canada have established a sacred connection to Mother Earth since time immemorial. Since the introduction of Treaties, Indigenous communities have been at conflict with the British Crown and Canadian/Provincial Governments regarding land use and developments on Crown Lands which negatively affect harvest rights which are protected by these Treaties. This presentation will outline the significance of First Nation Lands,Traditional Territories and Treaty Territories. Also, we will identify the conflicts between Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and Land Use Mapping processes recognized by Canadian/Provincial Laws such as archeological investigations within sacred sites and the limitations of mapping traditional land use specific only to harvest sites.


“A World Covered in Stories”

Carly Dokis, Nipissing University and Paige Restoule, Nipissing University

In the introduction to Centering Anishinaabeg Studies, John Burrows shares the story of Nanaboozhoo, Lynx, Fish, and Bear and the time that they fell down a dark hole onto a Turtle’s back. This story describes how the world is made new through the sharing and receiving of stories, and of their potential to change the ways in which we see the world. Drawing on the transformative capacity of stories, this presentation traces the development of a collaborative research project between Dokis First Nation and Nipissing University researchers on water quality in the community. Through the restorying of land, our work has sought to move beyond the materiality of water to seriously consider water as inseparable from and situated within the fabric of living – in relational and dialogic practices undertaken on the land and with each other. This prioritizing of a story-based and relational approach to understanding and describing connections between researchers and communities, and between people and nature, underscores the importance of what Brian Nobel has called treaty ecologies, or the active contestation of coloniality through living well together.

“Logging, fire, and beavers: the story of environmental and cultural change on Dokis First Nation as told by traditional knowledge and tree-rings”

Jeff Dech, Biology, Nipissing University, and Norm Dokis, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry

Traditional knowledge of events on the landscape of the Dokis First Nation (DFN) over the twentieth century provides a compelling story of destruction and recovery, involving changes in forest cover, hydrology, wildlife movement and hunting practices. The story began with the sale of timber rights in the late 1800s and the subsequent exploitive logging of virgin white pine stands. After a majority of the white pine were cut in the early twentieth century, an abundance of dry logging residues left the forests vulnerable to fires, which created barren areas of bare rock or thin soils known as “the burnt” over much of the landscape. After the fires subsided and recovery of the forests began, the open character of the land promoted the colonization of shade intolerant forest trees such as aspen and birch. At the same time, hunting practices were altered to fit the open environment, and relied on working with dogs to chase deer from upland areas to the river. As time progressed and forests began to take hold, beavers were drawn into the area by the abundance of fast-growing intolerant hardwood vegetation. Eventually, beaver dams produced large ponds that were attractive to moose and used by deer to escape from dogs. The community adjusted to this change in environment, and again hunting practices changed. Today, forests continue to recover on DFN and hunting and forestry practices are shaped by the chronology of events presented in this traditional story. We have identified an opportunity to add to this story by examining the parts of it that remain on the landscape as boundary objects (e.g. dead trees, woody materials from dams), and use dendrochronological techniques to date and describe the fires and floods associated with logging and beaver activity. We will integrate these data that arise from a scientific approach with the information in the story passed down in the traditional knowledge of the community and in doing so we hope to provide some environmental context for the changes to the physical and cultural landscape on the DFN over the last century.


Panel #2

“What traditions and whose histories? Misuses of precedent to justify medicinal cannabis and other plant substances”

Chris Duvall, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque

Scientific literature often calls upon non-European traditions as well as histories of Western medicine to justify the use of, and explorations for, new and neglected drug plants. However, purported precedents are often misleading or false. This paper focuses on cannabis. Current medical scientific literature tells that cannabis, when used as a medicinal drug, allows patients to channel ancient Asian and African traditions, as well as a century (about 1840 to 1940) when Western pharmacopeias included cannabis preparations. This paper argues that these purported precedents obscure real ones that are robustly documented and more informative for current concerns about medicinal and non-medicinal drug use. In short, the ‘traditions’ are either anciently extinct, or arose within exploitative labor relationships in early modern global capitalism; the ‘history’ of Western cannabis use omits that most physicians distrusted and disused the plant drug. More broadly, scientific literature has framed drug plants in ways that obscure social and environmental processes, even though these processes produce or prevent drug use, and shape the effects people experience through the use of plant drugs.


“Secwepemc Concepts and Laws of Reciprocal Accountability with Sentient Beings on the Land”

Marianne Ignace, Departments of Linguistics and First Nations Studies, Simon Fraser University, and Chief Ron Ignace

This paper addresses the ways in which Secwepemc stsptekwll or oral traditions express details and fine nuances of traditional ecological and geographical knowledge. Most significantly, they establish connections among places, animals, plants, ancestors and the land itself as interconnected sentient beings acting upon one another in a universe of reciprocal moral accountability, but also observation and experience. I will provide examples of how such relationships are articulated in stsptekwll. In the face of linguistic and cultural loss, the Secwepemc are also experiencing the destruction and decline of environments and habitats that give life to these connections and the principles of perception, thought and experience that support them. However, by articulating these worlds of knowledge and the principles they entail, they can powerfully challenge western concepts of environmental assessment review and land use decisions.