Veganism And Mi’kmaq Legends

Margaret Robinson

“At stake in the creation of a Native veganism is the authority of Native people, especially Native women, to determine cultural authenticity for ourselves. Dominant white discourse portrays Native culture as focused on preserving the pre-colonial past. This must be replaced with the recognition that Native culture is a living tradition, responsive to changing social and environmental circumstances.”

This paper proposes a postcolonial ecofeminist reading of Mi’kmaq legends as the basis for a vegan diet rooted in indigenous culture.1  Such a project faces two significant barriers. The first is the association of veganism with whiteness.

Drew Hayden Taylor has portrayed abstaining from meat as a white practice (Taylor 2000a, 2000b). In a joke at the beginning of his documentary, Redskins, Tricksters and Puppy Stew he asks, What do you call a Native vegetarian? A very bad hunter.” Ecologist Robert Hunter (1999) depicts vegans as “eco-Jesuits” and “veggie fundamentalists,” who “force Natives to do things the white man’s way” (p. 100-113). By projecting white imperialism onto vegans Hunter enables white omnivores to bond with Natives over meat-eating. In Stuff White People Like, satirical author Christian Lander (2008) portrays veganism as a tactic for maintaining white supremacy. He writes, “As with many white-people activities, being vegan/vegetarian enables them to feel as though they are helping the environment and it gives them a sweet way to feel superior to others” (p. 38).

When veganism is constructed as white, First Nations people who choose a meatless diet are portrayed as sacrificing cultural authenticity. This presents a challenge for those of us who see our vegan diets as ethically, spiritually and culturally compatible with our indigenous traditions.

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Native Americans and Vegetarianism

History of Vegetarianism – Native Americans and Vegetarianism

This article first appeared in the Vegetarian Journal, September 1994, published by The Vegetarian Resource Group

By Rita Laws, Ph.D.

How well we know the stereotype of the rugged Plains Indian: killer of buffalo, dressed in quill-decorated buckskin, elaborately feathered eaddress, and leather moccasins, living in an animal skin teepee, master of the dog and horse, and stranger to vegetables. But this lifestyle, once limited almost exclusively to the Apaches, flourished no more than a couple hundred years. It is not representative of most Native Americans of today or yesterday. Indeed, the “buffalo-as-lifestyle” phenomenon is a direct result of European influence, as we shall see.

Among my own people, the Choctaw Indians of Mississippi and Oklahoma, vegetables are the traditional diet mainstay. A French manuscript of the eighteenth century describes the Choctaws’ vegetarian leanings in shelter and food. The homes were constructed not of skins, but of wood, mud, bark and cane. The principal food, eaten daily from earthen pots, was a vegetarian stew containing corn, pumpkin and beans. The bread was made from corn and acorns. Other common favorites were roasted corn and corn porridge. (Meat in the form of small game was an infrequent repast.) The ancient Choctaws were, first and foremost, farmers. Even the clothing was plant based, artistically embroidered dresses for the women and cotton breeches for the men. Choctaws have never adorned their hair with feathers.

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Facilitated Ecosystem Recovery

by ria

Facilitated Ecosystem Recovery: A Stewardship Paradigm Proposal

John Muir: When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.

The naturalist Joan Bradley wrote her final book Bringing Back the Bush:The Bradley Method of Bush Regeneration chronicling the recovery of Australian plant communities based on regeneration principles proven not just effective but generalizable to a variety of settings. After the ‘gentle art’ proved itself over time, education and training in the ‘Bradley Method’ spread locally and abroad.

My sister and I had for years been pulling up seedling weeds growing near the walking tracks in Ashton Park, and had looked despondently at the big ones scattered through the bush further in. We had always found these widespread invaders particularly offensive, and longed for the strength we believed was needed to cope with them. We felt that, because of their threat to the whole of the bush, these should be the first weeds to be destroyed, and were therefore delighted to see unsightly walls of tall lantana fall to the mattocks and brushhooks of the park staff.

We had never thought it possible that such very bad areas could be restored by anything other than this sort of clearing followed by replanting. The clearing was mostly confined to very heavy lantana infestations, where the few native seedlings that came up were quickly swamped by an explosion of assorted weeds, but in a few places work was extended into areas of mixed weeds and natives. Here, where they were not hopelessly outnumbered, the natives responded magnificently. Shrubs, despite disturbed roots and broken branches, put out new shoots, and seedlings of many species germinated along with the weeds

With growing enthusiasm, we began to understand that there might be another way to fight the invaders. Given half a chance, the bush would fight back on its own behalf… systematic hand weeding, carefully done, was a spectacular success…

…The turning point for bush regeneration came in 1975when the National Trust commissioned Joan, Toni May and their small team of regenerators to demonstrate their techniques in Blackwood Reserve, Beecroft. While regenerating Blackwood, Joan also proved to herself that the principles established in Hawkesbury sandstone bushland could also be applied to the moist schlerophyll woodland growing on the richer shale-derived soils and, ultimately, rainforest. With the support and sponsorship of the National Trust… the demand by local councils for the services of trained regenerators grew rapidly…

With demand for regenerators outstripping supply, a school was established to teach the Bradley Method to conservationists keen to assist in bringing back their local bushland. Joan was commissioned to provide tuition and gradually that small band of previously unpaid workers grew – former pupils became teachers, and the Bradley Method is now being used throughout Australia and in some countries overseas…

In Joan’s words, ‘As a very old-fashioned scientist and former chemist, I had a thorough grounding in what was then the simple scientific method of experiment and observation. Repeatability still remains for me the acid test. This method is repeatable anywhere as long as the three principles are followed’.

pp. 9-12

Inspired by witnessing ample effort in restoration practices with questionable long term effectiveness, Joan Bradley and her sister Eileen experimented with a naturalistic method, eventually shifting well-intended yet damaging restoration efforts into a more nuanced, bio-centric approach.

In this current millennia marked by the advent of agriculture and shuffling of species, eventually nature loving humans and organizations heard and heeded the call from suffering ecosystems and galvanized enormous efforts to reverse the damage. While modern humans struggled with their place and purpose in the natural world to which they lost their indigenous connection, the call for stewardship grew ever clear. The meme ‘natives are good, nonnatives are bad’ slowly crept into the mindset of the masses. In Cascadian metropolitan localities, plentiful acres of nonnative plant species were removed, with native species planted in their stead. As the focus now shifts increasingly into maintenance and monitoring modes, long term outcomes of these efforts are yet to be learned.  To what extent will these installed plantings regenerate, and revive former rich and diverse plant, animal and fungal communities?With inspiration from Joan and Eileen Bradley and the scientific stories of innovative stewards in the field, the gentle art and field science of the here named Facilitated Ecosystem Recovery (FER) approach is now presented. This method centers on 1. native plant species regeneration, 2. soil stability and 3. habitat recovery.

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Bradley Method of Natural Regeneration

The other green army: a history of bush regeneration

Tuesday 7 April 2015  By: Nick Franklin

Sydney’s ‘eccentric’ Bradley sisters were pioneers of bush regeneration, a movement that changed the battle against the biggest enemy of native plants—invasive weeds. Nick Franklin, an experienced bush regenerator, heads into the scrub in search of their story.

‘The grand Australian bush, nurse and tutor of eccentric minds, the home of the weird, and of much that is different from things in other lands.’

The Bush Undertaker by Henry Lawson

‘It is what we have done to the natural environment and what it has done to us. The world outside us and the world within. Wilderness, home and garden. Temple, nursery and slaughterhouse.

The Bush by Don Watson

‘So you’re going to be a weed Nazi,’ said my sister laughing down the phone from the other side of the world.

Being misunderstood and seen as a bit of crank has a long history in bush regeneration, going right back to the pioneering Bradley sisters, who were often labelled as eccentrics when they began developing their theories on Sydney’s North Shore back in the  1960s.

At the boundary between bushland and suburbia it’s almost like a lava flow—flowing over the fence and creeping into the bush …  and there’s a sense of complacency in Australia.

Tim Low, biologist and author

Joan and Eileen Bradley literally stumbled into bush regeneration as they walked their dogs on Bradleys Head (no relation). As they walked they would pull out weeds, and eventually noticed the bush naturally regenerating.

The Bradley method of weed control was built on the three core principles outlined in Joan Bradley’s Bringing Back the Bush:

1. Work outwards from good bush areas towards areas of weed.

2. Make minimal disturbance to the environment.

3. Do not over clear.

In a tone that would become all too familiar to her followers, she warned: ‘You must not deviate from any of the principles. We cannot stress this enough.’

This was the beginning of a movement that today has thousands of people around Australia practising bush regeneration either as volunteers or paid workers. Early in my research for a documentary on the history of bush regenerators, I assumed that the Bradley sisters were the first, but I was wrong.

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Flow, by Frank Cook


About Frank Cook:

Frank Cook was an herbalist, teacher, botanical explorer, activist and pollinator who turned people on to the abundance nature provides and the ability to self-actualize.
He considered himself a citizen of the world. We considered him to be an herbal extraordinaire, green wizard, botanical genius and Gaia-loving prophet of emerging planetary medicine and transition cultures. He touched a large number of people and instilled in them a deep love of the natural world as well as an empowered sense of self.
He was a phenomenal teacher. After hearing Frank share his way of seeing the world, many were inspired to connect with nature in some way – to eat something wild everyday, let your food be your medicine, practice simple living, show up on plant walks, make mead and wild ferments, or create your own herbal remedies for the family.
Frank taught us all the edible plants in our yard and woods. He showed us what plants were medicine and gave us medicine he had made from them. He awakened the herbal movement and graced our communities with old knowledge of traditional healers, reminding us to appreciate the whole plant and see plants as our allies. He encouraged us to think of local analogue plants to replace the endangered, over-harvested species of the world, and to walk the green path.
But Frank Cook did more than just enlighten us about plants. He expanded our minds and aroused higher consciousness: through his travel journals, his botany talks, his way of living by donation, and by taking us to our edges, and asking questions like, “What plants will be with us in this planetary culture rising?”, “How will you show up to help your community transition into these changing times?”, and “How can we best move forward?”
He firmly believed that we are in the midst of great changes on the planet and that it is our awareness and daily choices that will determine what quality of a future we have as people of one interconnected world. Frank spoke often of how we were quickly becoming one world. His central questions in this respect were: “What plants will be in our global gardens and stories?” “What will our global healing system look like?” “ What are the roles of the human species in the web of life?”
Frank was very much alive when he passed, full of visions, work and inspiration. He was known to say, “I am done with end users,” meaning that as we learned this knowledge and way of being he was teaching, it was now our responsibility to pass it on.