Tending The Wild on TV

Anybody seen this on local TV in California?

“Tending the Wild” shines light on the environmental knowledge of indigenous peoples across California by exploring how they have actively shaped and tended the land for millennia, in the process developing a deep understanding of plant and animal life. This series examines how humans are necessary to live in balance with nature and how traditional practices can inspire a new generation of Californians to tend their environment."

Watched a few episodes and it seemed very well done, with lots of effort put into finding native practitioners. The women especially seemed very competent and on point. I liked the acorn lady in the ‘Decolonizing the Diet’ episode, matter-of-factly noting a battle between two tribes over an especially productive oak grove (which her tribe won), singing a traditional acorn-grinding song and giving a crash course on her process. Valuable to have a visual record of this stuff as books can only go so far in describing these things.

There are also quite a few related articles at the bottom of the page, for example this one which had some great bits about the native relationship with food: http://www.kcet.org/shows/tending-the-wild/what-happens-when-native-people-lose-their-traditional-foods

The native people I have worked with in southern California for the past 16 years have a profound spiritual connection to the land through their ancestors and their long history of living on the land. They pay homage to plants and consider them as their teachers. They’re dedicated to passing on what they know to others. All stress our interdependence with other species. All have a fierce devotion to revitalizing their culture as part of the larger cultural revitalization sweeping California.

Cahuilla/Apache elder Lorene Sisquoc describes a reciprocal relationship with the plants and the land. “The plants are waiting for us to come take care of them so they can take care of us. In Temalpakh, Katherine Saubel writes that the Cahuilla word for an oak grove, meki’i’wah, means ‘the place that waits for me.’ It’s our responsibility to take care of the land, to get out there and gather, to sing songs, tell stories, do ceremony, share our laughter and our language. To preserve our oral traditions by passing our knowledge to our kids and grandkids. It’s important that they start learning very young. Taking care of the plants helps make our families healthy. We’re working hard to heal our communities by deepening our connection to the land.”


Sisquoc teaches at the Sherman Indian High School in Riverside, a former boarding school created to assimilate Indian children into the dominant culture. Sisquoc relates that students were instructed: “‘Forget about your traditional plants. Forget about the acorns and pine nuts and mesquite waiting to be gathered. You’ve got to get over here and make a garden and milk that cow. That’s what the boarding schools were about. It was lactose-intolerant kids being fed dairy products and introduced foods, and taught cooking and home economics that were different from theirs. They were taught that their ways were wrong. Many of our gathering practices and our culinary secrets and specialties were not passed down because the boarding school students weren’t home to learn them.”

Shimwich Chumash educator and CCC member Tima Lotah Link echoes Sisquoc: “If you want to wreck a culture, hit it in the kitchen. Boarding schools did that in one generation. Take away the kids, take away their plants, take away their knowledge of the kitchen. Parents and children no longer gathered their plants together. They no longer spoke their language or shared information.”

Thought I’d pass it on… You guys probably all know about it already!

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further thoughts…

So much important stuff in Lois Conner Bohna’s segment from the ‘Decolonizing the Diet’ episode, especially the concluding remarks (my emph):

There’s maybe five of us in the North Fork area that gather acorns and we can’t even find enough for ourselves at this point. It is difficult to find acorn because the trees are unhealthy because of the mistletoe, because of the competition from other trees taking their water. A long time ago there were more oak trees. A lot have died, a lot. My grandmas would not allow their environment to look this way. They’re gonna either cut trees, prune ’em, when they would go through they’re gonna burn, their number one thing was their oak trees, and that sustained not only them but the squirrels, and the squirrels provide for the other animals, so we’re back to balance. Now it is totally out of balance. If you don’t use something, you neglect it, it goes away. So the oak trees are gonna go away.

I’ve had people who should know better making the argument to me that the h/ger lifeway is no longer feasible because it can’t support the current human population. This quote provides an excellent riposte - it can’t support a large population because those relationships have been neglected, in fact actively destroyed. But if we start breathing life back into it, with sensitive landscape restoration & repair as part of the process, then the earth’s capacity to support human numbers in an ecologically sustainable way will slowly start to rebound. To paraphrase Quinn, if there are still people around in 100 years time they will have engraved these lessons on their hearts, because if they/we don’t there won’t +be+ any people around in 100 years time.