American Indians – A Time of Harvest & Hope?

By Carla Ferris

October is a harvesting celebration month. This October report describes some of my research and areas of interest on the topics of American Indians. Among them, are ethnobotany (in traditional acorn gathering) and Ecofeminism. Through my internship at MOM, I look forward to exploring the Indigenous lifestyles as I work toward the completion of my advanced degree in Public History at American Public University (full Bio online at Padlet). In particular, I also interested in the Chumash tribe, whose peoples populated central California until the establishment of the Spanish missions in the 1700s. Chumash tribe’s encounters are brief, the Indigenous information shared with Mother’s museum will come from extensive research.

My October report begins with a youtube video called, “A Conversation with Native Americans on Race”, which was suggested to me by museum director, Martha Joy Rose. This youtube video emphasizes American Indian identity and loss. The first interviewee remarked on how tribal populations were treated extremely poorly. Each of the interviewees had a slightly different perspective about terminology. But, based on the recommendations made, the term “American Indian” was preferred over Indigenous people. So, that is how I will henceforth make reference. According to his explanation, identity is valued, and “American Indian” refers to the culture (in general). Click on the image below if you would like to watch the video in its entirety.

Early attempts at Christian conversion aimed at removing the American Indian culture and identity have left deep scars. Further research about the California Chumash tribe and lifestyle provided historical depictions of life during the mission period. The Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa describes the missionary padres replacing the American Indian mother’s role as gathers. The padre’s lessons were instructions for farming and architecture building. Despite the padre’s efforts, the Chumash tribes continued their cultural traditions in festival celebrations and herbal trades. It is important to note, that American Indians have been disproportionately affected during COVID- with extremely high mortality rates.

In addition to the ongoing devastation of COVID, California (and now Colorado) wildfires have been burning at unprecedented levels. I accessed a segment about Native American cultural burns that historically encouraged diverse natural habitat and helped to control forest fires. I was also able to watch Kat Anderson’s “Tending the Wild”, a television documentary about the practice of motherhood acorn gathering traditions. The mothers’ role in the American Indian’s acorn gathering traditions is joyful.  As if to counter the great obstacles currently facing not only Native Americans but all Americans in 2000, Kat places emphasis on Indian gathering activity as a heartful participation in cultural mindfulness. Her contributions in “Tending the Wild” encourage this tradition as well as ecological knowledge. She states, “these practices are essential if we are to completely utilize the living sustainable challenge”.

This connects to Kim Anderson’s article “Giving Life to the People”, which describes the spiritual aspects of Motherhood. She describes Native American Mother’ beliefs in the ability to maintain life’s creations. Kim cites Paula Guen Allen’s scholarly, spiritual tradition descriptions, stating “There is a relationship between creative thinking and the power of mothering.” She continues, “Mothers are connected to the original creation and the work in progress for a sustainability aspect.” Kim highlights this concept with anthological and petrograph studies and evidence. The Native Americans truly believe the Earth is the Mother of all life. She writes” Therefore, Women’s power is viewed in the ability to create and nurture.” The book featuring Kim Anderson’s essay is available at the Museum of Motherhood library (Maternal Theory, Essential Readings, edited by Andrea O’Reilly).

Kathryn Mile’s “Ecofeminism” and Mary Mellor’s “Feminism & Ecology” articles provide Ecofeminism descriptions and views. Kathryn describes ecological feminism as a branch of feminism that examines the connections between women and nature. This is a world view that respects organic processes, holistic connections, and the merits of intuition and collaboration. These protectives illustrate ecofeminism connecting both a commitment to the environment and an awareness of the associations made between women and nature. Mary Mellor agrees with these Ecofeminism concepts. She highlights, “Ecofeminism brings together the feminist elements and green movements.” She continues, “Ecofeminism, a ‘new term for an ancient wisdom’s that arose from various feminist, peace and ecology movements”. In the early 1980s, Francoise D’Eaubonne first used the Ecofeminism term. This gained popularity in protests against environmental destruction.

During my eco-feminism and acorn research, I found Acorn Recipes, which are close to the Native American bread-making traditions. I would say many of these have been modernized and do not look authentic, but I would still like to experiment with the recipe sometime. Actual acorn flour can be quite bitter and requires several soakings before pounding the material into pulp. Here is a link to more information about how to do that [LINK].

Mix cornmeal with cold water, add boiling water and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add sale and butter and cool to lukewarm. Soften yeast in lukewarm water. Add remaining ingredients to corn mixture, along with yeast. Knead to a stiff dough. Dough will be sticky. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk. Punch down, shape into two loaves, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

Bibliography

Acorn Recipes http://www.thepeoplespaths.net/NAIFood/acorns.htm

Anderson, M. Kat. “Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources.” Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2006.

Kat Anderson. “Tending the Wild.” https://www.kcet.org/shows/tending-the-wild/episodes/cultural-burning

Anderson, Kim. “Giving Life to the People: An Indigenous Ideology of Motherhood.” In Maternal Theory: Essential Readings, edited by O’REILLY ANDREA, 761-81. BRADFORD, CANADA: Demeter Press, 2007.

California Oaks http://californiaoaks.org/

California Wildlife Foundation Newsletters. http://californiaoaks.org/take-action/

Chumash History. Website: https://www.santaynezchumash.org/chumash-history

Ethnobotany https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/ethnobotany/index.shtml

Herb Article Ca. Poppy, Rebecca https://www.rebeccasherbs.com/pages/herb-article-br-california-poppy

Kathryn Miles. “Ecofeminism.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. October 2018. https://www.britannica.com/topic/ecofeminism

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa http://missionsanluisobispog1.weebly.com/tribes.html

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa https://missionsanluisobispo.org/

Mellor, Mary. Introduction to “Feminism & Ecology.” New York University Press,1997, p.1

Youtube Video: A conversation with Native Americans on Race. https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=siMal6QVblE

Women and Life on Earth website. http://www.wloe.org/Women-from-Planet-Diversi.556.0.html  

Featured photo credit: https://www.loc.gov/item/2013631567/

Published by MOM

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