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Ecological Management for Culturally-Significant Wildlife

  • Source: Don Hankins, CSU Chico - Sacramento Delta Region Plains Miwok
  • Topic Area(s): Culture, Wildlife & Habitat
  • Contact: Myla Kelly, Peaks to Prairies Coordinator
  • Year: 2009

Don Hankins, of California State University at Chico, is a Sacramento Delta region Plains Miwok, a basketweaver, and a fire ecologist. During this presentation, he commented on the lack of cultural management that exists on a landscape scale. Cultural knowledge integration is one of his areas of investigation, and his exploration of the question showed him that traditional knowledge goals are the same thing as current wildlife management goals. A lack of cultural management in the landscape is closely tied to single species preservation approach. California Condor recovery is one example of a single species approach. The condor is an extremely culturally important species, as it is the pinnacle of the Miwok creation story.

Don commented on the lack of cultural management that exists on a landscape scale.

  • What are the links between traditional ecological knowledge and modern science?
  • Cultural knowledge integration is one of his areas of investigation, and his exploration of the question showed him that traditional knowledge goals are the same thing as current wildlife management goals.
  • A lack of cultural management in the landscape is closely tied to single species preservation approach. California Condor recovery is one example of a single species approach. The condor is an extremely culturally important species, as it is the pinnacle of the Miwok creation story.
  • An example of landscape management can be seen in the study of fire ecology. Don began noticing the relationship with fire – the driving force in their (California) landscape, and wanted to know more about how fire helps conserve species.

The Miwok elders explain that they have a responsibility to maintain their landscape. Many of their culturally-significant species are rare. He wonders…is it because they haven’t maintained their traditional role in their landscape?

Culturally-significant species (those species for which a culture has a unique relationship). For Plains Miwok these include: Sacramento split tail, Chinook salmon, traditional plants used in basket weaving, California Red-Legged Frog, Bald Eagle.

Basket-weaving

  • Traditional practice for many native communities
  • For CA tribes without specific treaty rights, they were required to apply and pay for permits to harvest their traditional plants on National Forest Service land.
  • Don took part in creating a management plan with the USFS for traditional basket plants that included the right to harvest without paying a permit fee.
  • This has become known as the Traditional Indian Gathering Policy (http://www.ciba.org/materials): adopted in 2007, it ensures free use of plants for traditional basketweavers and gatherers on lands in California managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. This rule was developed in coordination with tribes, tribal members, and members of CIBA and the California Indian Forest and Fire Management Council.

Additional Resources

  • California Indian Basket Weavers Association: www.ciba.org
  • Another perspective on traditional fire management as a multiple species management technique: Kaanju Fire Management Project
  • The Onandaga Nation in upstate NY is also pursuing traditional ecological management by pushing for the right to manage their historic lands, without taking the land as private property. The Onondaga Nation is suing the State of New York, the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County, and five corporations for illegal land takings and damage inflicted on Central New York’s environment: www.onondaganation.org/land/complaint.html.
  • Contact Don at dhankins@csuchico.edu with questions, feedback, and for additional examples.