Reflections on “Tending the Wild” workshop at OAEC

8 07 2013
Acorn. Photo by Kat Steele.

Acorn. Photo by Kat Steele.

When people don’t use plants they get scarce. You must use them so they come up again. All plants are like that. If they’re not gathered from, or talked to, or cared about, they’ll die.

– Mabel McKay, Pomo Elder, quoted from News From Native California

Last week I attended a remarkable 3-day workshop at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) called “Tending the Wild”. It was organized by my friend and colleague Lindsay Dailey, who is the Associate Director of the Wildlands Program at OAEC. For the past few years Lindsay has been training and working with me in the use of fire mimicry techniques in oak woodland restoration. I have found her to be a serious student and practitioner of traditional ecological approaches in land care.

The workshop drew together an amazing group of teachers and elders speaking on the topic of wildland tending by the Californian native people. The first day was led by M. Kat Anderson, PhD, author of the book “Tending the Wild“. Her thesis is that the richness and abundance of the historical ecosystems in California were largely the result of thousands of years of tending by the native people, primarily through the wise use of fire in burning the land to improve soil fertility and promote plant production/regeneration. In answer to the question: “Why are plants and animals disappearing?”, her response is: “Because we no longer have a relationship with them.” Read the rest of this entry »