Celebrating Native American Heritage Month

November 9th, 2021
Ohlone territory / Berkeley, California

November is Native American Heritage Month! PLAT is based in unceded Lisjan Ohlone territory, known as Berkeley, California. Indigenous land relationships and traditional land management practices are vital for the field of landscape architecture and for regenerative landscapes to restore our planet.

European Americans became aware of ecology and preservation during the mid 1800s when Frederick Law Olmstead was designing urban park systems and John Muir was advocating to preserve “God’s wilds,” like Yosemite. Unfortunately, these settlers didn’t understand the complex land management practices that had been in place for thousands of years, and believed the land was “untouched” by humans. Thanks to Muir and other’s lobbying efforts, the US Government established national parks. Unfortunately this belief in an untouched wilderness meant that Indigenous Peoples were forcibly removed from their lands and lost the right to hunt in those places. Today, Indigenous activists advocate for parks and lands to be returned to their original inhabitants to restore traditional (and effective) land management practices.

“The national parks are the closest thing America has to sacred lands, and like the frontier of old, they can help forge our democracy anew. More than just America’s “best idea,” the parks are the best of America, the jewels of its landscape. It’s time they were returned to America’s original peoples.”
— David Treuer

[ Shellmounds once dotted the Bay Area marking villages and places for ceremony, they were leveled by settlers developing the land hastily ]

In California, fire has long supported renewal and biodiversity. California’s Indigenous Peoples used annual controlled burns to prevent large scale destruction. The last two hundred years of settler fire suppression has led to a build up of dense undergrowth that burns hot and can harm mature trees. The Yurok tribe of Northern California is using controlled burns to support river and salmon health.

[ SF Bay Area wetlands are abundant in tule reed ]

[ Tule reed is used to create canoes, baskets, and more ]

[ Ohlone tule reed and shell basket ]

Indigenous People make up 5% of the world population, and they protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity

In addition to supporting flora and fauna, Indigenous water protectors advocate against oil pipelines which spill into watersheds and drinking water. Find out more about the ongoing fights against pipelines and oil companies here. In recent years, the oil industry has spent millions to undermine tribal sovereignty, as part of their efforts to gain access to oil and minerals on tribal lands. The podcast This Land conducted in depth investigations into the oil industry's lawsuits and attempts to dismantle Native American rights. A petition in support of tribal sovereignty can be found here.

Despite the US Government’s attempted genocide of Native Americans, they are fighting to retain their ancestral lands and practices. As guests to this place, we must listen to and support our local tribes. Indigenous People’s deep knowledge of and respect for the land should serve as the landscape architect’s guide as we navigate the climate crisis. 

If you’re based in the Bay Area, you can pay Shuumi tax to the Ohlone people here.

[ Ohlone tule reed canoe ]
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