This symposium will bring together Indigenous environmental experts from the United States and Canada to discuss how Native communities are researching and addressing threats to their lands from extractive industries, pollution, and climate change. The speakers will share Native understandings of the medicinal and nutritional value of plants and models of ethical and sustainable land use. They will also suggest how botanical gardens can learn from Indigenous plant experts in a spirit of respect and reciprocity and in full recognition of the ways in which these institutions have supported and profited from colonialism in the past. We will consider how to build a just alliance with Indigenous scholars to work together with due humility toward a more sustainable relationship with plants.
First Nations: Ethical Landscapes, Sacred Plants is convened by the Garden’s Humanities Institute in partnership with Yale University and the Mellon Foundation. It forms part of The Order of Multitudes: Atlas, Encyclopedia, Museum, a collaborative project that examines the long and varied history of attempts to collect and manage information and generate synthetic, inclusive knowledge.
Zoe Todd (Métis/otipemisiw) from Amiskwaciwaskahikan (Edmonton), Alberta, Canada, artist and Associate Professor at Carlton Univ., Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Joe Baker, Executive Director of the Lenape Center, NY, and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in Mashantucket, CT. Enrolled Member of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, Bartlesville, OK
Who are you Calling “Common”? Cultural Keystone Species in Extractive Zones
Janelle Marie Baker (Métis ancestry; collaborator with Bigstone Cree Nation), Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Athabasca University, Northern Alberta, Canada
Plants Are Our Relatives
Linda Black Elk (Catawba Nation), Ethnobotanist, Food Sovereignty Skills Coordinator at United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck, North Dakota
Questions of Ethics and Justice in Coalition Building
Kyle Whyte (Citizen Potawatomi Nation), Professor of Environment and Sustainability, and George Willis Pack Professor at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability
Moderator of Public Q&A
Ashanti Shih, Yale University, postdoctoral scholar at University of Southern California’s Society of Fellows in the Humanities. Former Mellon Fellow, NYBG Humanities Institute
CART Interpretation, Spanish, French, and Chinese live-translation will be provided at this event. For accommodation requests related to a disability, questions, comments, or more information about the accessibility of this event, please contact Charles Zimmerman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718.817.8765.
About the Speakers and Presenters
Zoe Todd is a Métis scholar and artist from Amiskwaciwaskahikan (Edmonton), Alberta, who teaches at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
Her work engages science, art, social sciences, and Indigenous knowledge to tackle the diverse, interconnected challenges of protecting fish in rapidly changing watersheds and landscapes across the prairies. Through her work in Indigenous environmental studies, she focuses explicitly on applying Métis philosophy, art, and law to re-assert reciprocal relations with fish, water, and aquatic species.
Artist, curator, and educator, Joe Baker is Executive Director of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in Mashantucket, CT and co-founder and Executive Director of the Lenape Center. He is an enrolled member of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, Bartlesville, OK
Janelle Marie Baker
Janelle Baker is Assistant Professor in Anthropology at Athabasca University in northern Alberta, Canada. Her research is on sakawiyiniwak (Northern Bush Cree) experiences with wild food contamination in Treaty No. 8 territory, which is currently an area of extreme extraction of oil sands (bitumen) and forests.
In this context, Janelle is currently collaborating with Bigstone Cree Nation environmental monitors using community-based methods and traditional ecological knowledge to sample moose and water, and partnering with microbiologists using a metagenomics approach to study the composition of microbiomes to map the source of potential harmful contaminants and identify markers of aquatic system health. Janelle is also a co-PI with Métis anthropologist Zoe Todd on a project that is restor(y)ing land use governance and bull trout population health in a contested area of the Rocky Mountain foothills in Alberta, Canada. Janelle is currently the North Americas Representative on the Board of Directors for the International Society of Ethnobiology. She is the winner of the 2019 Canadian Association for Graduate Studies – ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award, Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences category.
Linda Black Elk
Linda Black Elk (Catawba Nation), is an ethnobotanist specializing in teaching about culturally important plants and their uses as food, medicine, and materials.
Linda works to build curriculum and ways of thinking that will promote and protect food sovereignty, traditional plant knowledge, and environmental quality as an extension of the fight against hydraulic fracturing and the fossil fuels industry. She has written for numerous publications, and is the author of “Watoto Unyutapi”, a field guide to edible wild plants of the Dakota people. Linda is the mother to three Lakota boys and serves as the Food Sovereignty Skills Coordinator at United Tribes Technical College.
Kyle Whyte is Professor of Environment and Sustainability and George Willis Pack Professor at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, serving as a faculty member in the environmental justice specialization.
Kyle’s research addresses moral and political issues concerning climate policy and Indigenous peoples, the ethics of cooperative relationships between Indigenous peoples and science organizations, and problems of Indigenous justice in public and academic discussions of food sovereignty, environmental justice, and the Anthropocene. He is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
Ashanti Shih is a historian of science based in Los Angeles, where she is as a postdoctoral scholar with the University of Southern California’s Society of Fellows in the Humanities.
Her work brings issues of race, ethnicity, and indigeneity into dialogue with Pacific histories of ecology and the environment. Her current book project, Invasive Ecologies: Science and Settler Colonialism in Twentieth-Century Hawai‘i, explores the intimate relationship between science, natural and cultural preservation, and settler colonialism. Prior to USC, Ashanti completed a Ph.D. in history at Yale University, and she served as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Humanities Institute at The New York Botanical Garden.
Image Credit: Speculative Algae (detail), watercolor by Zoe Todd
Support for the Humanities Institute provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation