Indigenous forest management against settler colonialism: Chelsey Geralda Armstrong, Natasha Lyons, Alex C. McAlvay, Patrick Morgan Ritchie, Dana Lepofsky, Michael Blake, ‘Historical ecology of forest garden management in Laxyuubm Ts’msyen and beyond’, Ecosystems and People, 19, 1, 2023, pp. 1-13


Abstract: Cultural land-use is an important driver of ecosystem change, influencing the composition of species across landscapes and through time. Recent research in northwestern North America has shown that historical Indigenous land-use and forest management has resulted in relict forest gardens dominated by edible fruit, nut, and berry producing trees and shrubs – many of which continue to grow adjacent to archaeological village sites today. Our research combines archaeological and ecological methods to better understand the historical ecology of seven forest gardens in the Pacific Northwest. Vascular plant communities at all sites are evaluated for distinctiveness using ANOSIM, NMDS, and indicator species analyses. We identify 15 forest garden indicator species, all of which are culturally significant edible fruit or root-bearing species. We then present the results of an intensive historical-ecological study of one site in Laxyuubm Gitselasu (Ts’msyen). Paleoethnobotanical data, soil and tree ring analyses, and radiocarbon dates show that forest management in the Gitsaex forest garden of Gitselasu pre-dates settler colonialism and shows that people likely modified soils and otherwise enhanced their immediate environment to increase the productivity of desired plant species. Given the importance of Indigenous peoples’ role in sustaining forested foodsheds, there is an ongoing and urgent need to support their revitalization and management and better understand the integrated cultural practices and ecological processes that result in these vast cultural landscapes.

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