Seeking new relationships with invasive species | 6/13/2018 | Staff
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With summer nearly here in North America, we often hear about invasive plants popping up in undesirable locations, "colonizing" different areas. But what if we shifted how "non-native" species are perceived? A Dartmouth study with two indigenous nations provides new insight into how the concept of "native" species is associated with colonialism, and how such framing runs counter to the lenses through which many indigenous peoples view their relationship with the world. Published in Sustainability Science, the study presents alternatives that challenge the native-non-native framework found in scientific discourse.

The ethnographic study was conducted in Michigan with 22 Anishnaabe tradition bearers, who are citizens of the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and Bay Mills Indian Community. Researchers spent two years conducting informal interviews and listening to the various perspectives of tribal citizens. Discussions focused on regional environmental change and on changes regarding two, non-native plants in the region: common reed (Phragmites australis) and hybrid cattail (Typha x glauca). Anishnaabe tradition bearers, who took part in the study, explained the concept of "aki": the idea that the land and all living and non-living things are considered sacred, where every single being has their own special gift and has something to offer the rest of creation. According to this study, the Anishnaabe teachings of aki could apply in invasive species situations as well.

Research - Findings - Species

The research revealed three findings, which can help inform how invasive species are viewed:

According to Anishnaabe teachings, plants and animals alike assemble in nations, each with their own creation stories, kinship networks and responsibilities. The arrival of new species is to be expected and is considered by some Anishnaabe to be a form of natural migration, whether assisted by humans or...
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