Decolonize the landscape: tackle invasive species

In conjunction with the release of the film, based on Richard Wagamese’s incredible book, Indian Horse, a #Next150 challenge has been developed, inviting people to step up to the challenge of decolonizing our minds, our culture, our country, and moving towards a deeper and meaningful state of reconciliation.

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This challenge dropped in my in-box the other day and struck me as a fascinating way to reframe tackling invasive species.

It had been on my mind after picking up a  yellow flag iris at the May plant sale. On googling the plant, to work out where to put it in my garden, I discovered it is one of the most invasive species in the corridor. Oops.

Cheryl Bryce is the Director of Local Services for Songhees Nation and a nation member. Her family roles includes taking care of the Kwetlal (camas) Food System and knowledge keeper. Her knowledge has been passed down through her grandmother and family.

Cheryl offers this challenge: learn about invasive plant species in your region and how they’re disrupting Indigenous traditional ecosystems and food systems where you live. If you can, responsibly remove some of it and share with us on social what you’re doing to create #DecolonizedLandscapes! Cheryl encourages you to connect with groups in your area already working on ecosystem restoration and care – or if there are no groups where you are, you can even start one!

Food for thought: I might not be indigenous. But that doesn’t mean I have to be invasive. 🙂

background info:

Introduced species are those that were brought to a place from which they did not originate; invasive species are a type of introduced species – so all invasives were introduced, but not all introduced species are invasive. The difference between the two is that invasive species cause harm to existing ecosystems and damage the balance inherent to the local ecology. For example, an invasive species might be introduced into an ecosystem in which it has no natural predators; in this case the introduced species might take thrive and take more than its share of resources, disrupting the balance that is required for a healthy ecosystem (making it invasive). Essentially, an invasive species might take over an ecosystem and damage all of the organisms that take part in that ecosystem. This can lead wide ranging issues like ecological damage (loss of biodiversity, reduced resistance to natural storms etc.), economic damage (loss of tourism or access to keystone species), and it can lead to social and cultural damage where Indigenous Communities can no longer access traditional foods, traditional lands or medicines that should grow in their territories.

Indigenous Peoples are the rightful stewards of their lands; we have been stewards of and relations with the lands and waters of Turtle Island since Time Immemorial but in many, plainly visible ways, colonization has damaged these relationships and has physically transformed the lands and waters that form our society with us. Colonization is ongoing in the disruption of traditional ecosystems. Disruptors like invasive and introduced species, and even climate change, alter our abilities as stewards of our territories to build strong relationships with the land and water – relationships to which all Indigenous Peoples have rights.

In order to assert our rights, Indigenous people can forge relationships with our own territories and we can be respectful guests in the territories of our friends and relations by spending time on the land. Allies too, can be respectful guests and can learn to care for traditional ecosystems in meaningful ways. Though colonization has altered our traditional ecosystems and food systems, there is so much we can do to improve our relationships with the land and that means starting where you are. Start or continue your learning today by learning about the introduced or invasive species in your area and learn how they have come to colonize the landscapes where you live. Spend time on the land with Knowledge Keepers if you can to learn more about the traditional ecosystems and how those ecosystems work with Indigenous Communities. Learn about important cultural species and about how those species are impacted by introduced and invasive species. Colonization is ongoing, but together we can work to disrupt the disruptors.


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