Explore what the Puget Sound foodscape looked like pre-contact with Native nutritionist and food sovereignty expert Valerie Segrest of the Muckleshoot Tribe.
Teaser excerpts from Episode 1: Eponymous.
Lylianna Allala, Colleen Echohawk, and Tamara Power-Drutis
In Partnership With:
Chief Seattle Club and Earth Day Northwest 2020
I think about the Puget Sound area and our food systems and several landscapes or foodscapes as beginning at the top of the mountains, which are the homes of these large glaciers. Those glaciers feed these swift running rivers that exit into the Puget Sound.
Along the way there are all of these different layers of incredible cultural ecosystems. There are high mountain huckleberry meadows, which we know were maintained over 5000 years ago. And if you think about that for a minute, that means that my ancestors were in those meadows, burning logs, burning bushes, trailing wild strawberry up the base of huckleberries, receding when Woolly Mammoths we're walking through the land.
So often in our history lessons, we are looking at things like the Colosseum and the City of Pompeii, which were not even a thought in people's minds in comparison to how long my ancestors have been managing these Huckleberry meadows.
And then you would come through well managed forest lands that weren't logged as we see it in modern day times, but trees were fallen and wood was harvested, bark was harvested.
And then you would go into a layer of camas meadows that were so abundant you can walk through camas meadows from Canada into Northern California.
Then you would come to saltwater beaches that had an abundance of food options there. There were clams and oysters, crabs, seaweed, all kinds of sea life available. And they were also well managed and maintained ecosystems that were, that are now being coined as “clam gardens.”
And then of course, there's the Salmon People, who spawn in our river beds, go out to sea, have some sort of sea Odyssey for a couple of years, and then return to their ancestral rivers to spawn and give life for the next generation to come. And in that action, their mineral rich bodies feed our rivers which feed our land, which increase the nutrition and medicine value of all of the land and all the things that dwell on that landscape.
This is all really important to remember when we think about how colonists arrived here and had a completely different take on the landscape. That even Captain Vancouver himself, while he sailed into the Salish Sea, documented that he had never seen land so untouched by man before. And what he didn't know is that he was looking at very well maintained and manicured gardens, that it was nothing for people to maintain acres of stinging nettle. And not just by harvesting them, but by also fertilizing them.
And so I'm not the kind of person that likes to pick away at terms. But when I think about foraging, I think about somebody sort of bumbling through the forest picking things. And that's not how our ancestors did it. These were very well maintained gardens. Sure they didn't look like Mr. McGregor's garden, but they definitely were cared for and in harvesting with a rich tradition and knowledge base, it actually encouraged the growth of native foods here.
So in certain harvesting techniques, whether it's picking a berry or harvesting a wild green, those techniques actually encourage the plant to invigorate more growth. So you may get a better berry crop next year and you would get a better crop of nettles in the fall.
This to me is what happens when you are bound up in your land, the deep connection to land and water for tens of thousands of years. That there is incredible ecological knowledge that's handed down through generations.