TOPICS – Module 5: The Colonization of Knowledge Systems and the need for Decolonization

In her book Our knowledge is Not Primitive, Wendy Makoons Geniusz discusses the colonization and decolonization of Anishinaabe knowledge. Noting, “…For indigenous people, colonization was not just economic and physical exploitation and subjugation it was also the exploitation and subjugation of our knowledge, our minds and our very beings…”i Those charged with carrying out various assimilation tactics were taught to view native knowledge as “primitive” or “evil” and, as a result, they often prevented its continued dispersal within native communities. Native people were also made to view their knowledge as “wrong” or “inferior” and non native knowledge as “right” or “superior” – and having such view many naturally chose what was made to look like a better knowledge.”ii The decline in Anishinaabeg agriculture, the loss of diversity of Native foods, and seed stocks are all related to this colonization process. Today, many Anishinaabeg view farming as something undertaken by white men on tractors, and have little to no knowledge of traditional Anishinaabeg gardens and foods. As Lucile Brockway points out, however, “Not only did the colonizers benefit from native botanical knowledge, they were also able to use this knowledge to fuel their imperialistic efforts.”iii These examples illustrate the tremendous benefit the elite colonizers gained by making native knowledge appear “primitive”. Once native people came to view their knowledge as inferior, some were willing to part with it for a price reflecting it’s primitive, inferior nature… Indeed, as Brockway argues that the search for botanical indigenous knowledge encouraged, fueled, and made possible European colonization of the globe. “Europeans brought plants from the Americas back to Europe and Asia, improving nutritional quality and quantity of food, which caused a population explosion and created a physical force for colonization…”iv (The potato is viewed as the plant which transformed diet and starvation trends in Europe.) As she continues, “European research institutions…began to experiment with plants and Indigenous botanical knowledge from the Americas creating products to benefit British health and economy as well as those of their colonies. Medicines from the Americas, including malaria treatment found in cinchona bark helped European colonists settle in other tropical regions of the world such as India… The colonizers used indigenous knowledge to exploit the people from whom it came….”v This writing is about decolonizing knowledge. In the process, this beginning piece discusses the historical knowledge about our Anishinaabeg, and land-based agricultural systems. This process was augmented nationally and internationally by the creation of an industrialized agriculture model. Value of Anishinaabeg, Indigenous Ethno botanical, and Farming Knowledge Gartner on soil Inputs, Carbon, Crop Rotations Raised and Ridged Fields, islands: “...No one has ever mapped the distribution of corn hills in Wisconsin in this study, 206 ridged field sites, l8l corn hill sites, 38 sites with both ridged fields and corn hills and 36 suspected raised field sites were tabulated from archival research, archeological site files, and original field surveys.”vi Gartner found that Sagard and Champlain both stated that: “The Huron relocated their villages every ten to thirty years depending on the rates of firewood depletion and the decline of agricultural yields. Some believe that thirty years is simply too long for Huron agriculture to be viable in one locale. Huron maize yields may have rapidly declined within about ten years of annual cropping from an average of 27 bushel per acre during the first six years to less than eight bushels per acre by year l0.”vii

After abandonment, the Huron allowed some fields to regenerate into “meadows” or secondary forest. Hazel nut and cherry trees are particularly common in old fields, although the degree to which the Huron intentionally planted these species is unknown. Heidenriecih estimates that in order to feed 21,000 people, approximately 5000 acres of land would have to be in cultivation at any point

Burning: “Excavations show that the…corn hills are primarily composed of topsoil, wood ash and charcoal. The control profiles contained little if any charcoal and ash, thereby demonstrating the importance of fire for native agriculture here.”viii Very little record was ever produced on the quality of the soils in the region − this loss in it’s self is significant as it is part of our traditional knowledge that is lost. What we can learn from studies of the terra preta (“black soil”) in the Figure 1 Left: a nutrient poor oxisol; right: an oxisol transformed into fertile terra preta (from the Amazonian Amazon Basin, however, is that similar practices of burning Basin). were responsible for cultivating an abundance of healthy, rich topsoil. Also referred to as terra preta de indio, or black earth of the Indian, its composed of high levels of charcoal, bone, manure, and other organic animal fertilizers.ix The traditional land management knowledge this indicates is very similar to Anishinaabe practices, which focus on burning and natural fertilizers to build and maintain soil fertility in a cyclical management process. Through controlled burning, and periods of time for the Earth to regenerate, this is a useful technique − not to be confused with the “scorched Earth policy” implemented by the United States military against Native peoples as a means of destroying food sources by burning all crops to the ground at once (this devastating method of war is still used in present time against Indigenous peoples in Guatemala (1982-3), Indonesia (1999). Fish guts as an additive to the gardens: We have come to a point where we recognize that the largest contributing factor to climate change is industrialized agriculture − and chemical fertilizer is a big part of this, as it leads to soil degradation in the way it is used. Our traditional practices, which involve organic fertilizers and knowledge of soil fertility are an important strategy. Our ancestors spread fish guts in the earth to promote fertility, and this, combined with cyclical burning, produced the richest of soil. This is a widely known and used practice today in organic and sustainable farming and gardening communities as Jeff Lowenfels noted in Teaming With Microbes: A Gardener's Guide to the Soil and Food Web, “Organic fish fertilizers excel at supporting the microbe herd that is at the base of the soil food web.”x This knowledge has been known and implemented to build deep, healthy soils in indigenous communities around the Earth for thousands of years. Soils and Growing Seasons: In the Lake Superior Lowlands, Chequemegon Bay and Region dominant soils are: “glossudalfs and eutroboralfs that formed either in fine glaciolacustrine deposits or coarsely textured glacial till. As the above classifications indicate, these podzolized soils have organic rich A horizons and prominent albic (E) and argillic (Bt horizons). They typically form under forests in cool, moist settings. Both sets of arent materials are calcareous and contain pulverized

Precambrian iron-rich rcs. The high Fe2O3 content of the later parent material is responsible for the so-called ‘red clay oil’ classification in the older soil literature.”xi The growing season varies between ll0-l40 days, and with l40 days of thick snow. There is reduced spring frost depth in all but the western most portions of the region. White Earth, Red Lake and Leech Lake.

Sabaskong and Rainy River- island and River bed soils Technology, Varieties and Technique: About l5.4% of raised fields sites occurred in forests dominated by maple, basswood and oak. Maple dominated forests occupied about 9.8 percent of Wisconsin in the mid l9th century, and there were several maize cultivars in one field.xii The crops were often pre treated before planting. Some germinated seed in water in the warmth of a long house, or in specially prepared seed beds during late spring. Such care reflects the importance of individual plants in native cultivation and is very different from broadcast sowing in Old world agriculture. “Tubers, Jerusalem artichoke (helianthus tuberosus), groundnut (apios americana), man of the earth (Ipomoea pandurata, which produces a 8-9kg edible root) and other species of Indian potatoes. If the Ojibwe and Assiniboine are any indication, tuber cultivation became more important towards the northern and western margins of agriculture” (563).xiii l000 Years of Agriculture in South and North America: Agrobiodiversity has a great significance both historically, and as we look into the future. Historically, we practiced crop rotation, companion planting, and understood the importance of biodiversity, an understanding that is very important as you do not want monocrops (the cause of the Irish Potato Famine). As the University of Minnesota states in the Three Sisters Planting Activity: “By the time Europeans had arrived on the North American continent, various Native tribes had domesticated and hybridized over 150 plants, including over 150 varieties and colors of six species of corn, five main species of beans, squash, gourds, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, peanuts, strawberries, blueberries, Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes (both white and sweet), chocolate, vanilla, sunflowers, and many others.”xiv The story of the Three Sisters is significant in Ojibwe oral tradition, and tells us how to plant the corn, squash, and soybean together in one mound.xv Potatoes and corn are probably the largest crops and have a huge impact. Discussion Questions: Should I write these?

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Geniusz, W.M. Our knowledge is not primitive: Decolonizing botanical Anishinaabe teachings. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2009. ii Geniusz, W.M. Our knowledge is not primitive: Decolonizing botanical Anishinaabe teachings. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2009. iii Brockway, Lucile. Science and Colonial Expansion: The Role of the British Royal Botanic Garden. Yale University Press, 2002. iv Brockway, Lucile. Science and Colonial Expansion: The Role of the British Royal Botanic Garden. Yale University Press, 2002. v Brockway, Lucile. Science and Colonial Expansion: The Role of the British Royal Botanic Garden. Yale University Press, 2002. vi Gartner, Gustav William. Raised Field Landscapes of Native North America Thesis (Ph. D.). Madison: The University of Wisconsin, 2003. vii Gartner, Gustav William. Raised Field Landscapes of Native North America Thesis (Ph. D.). Madison: The University of Wisconsin, 2003. viii Gartner, Gustav William. Raised Field Landscapes of Native North America Thesis (Ph. D.). Madison: The University of Wisconsin, 2003. ix Johannes, Lehmann. Research Digs Deeper into Biochar’s Benefits. Online: ABC Rural, November, 2, 2011. <http://www.abc.net.au/rural/news/content/201102/s3136085.htm> x Lovenfels, Jeff. Teaming With Microbes: A Gardner’s Guide to the Soil and Food Web. New York: Timber Press, 2006. xi Gartner, Gustav William. Raised Field Landscapes of Native North America Thesis (Ph. D.). Madison: The University of Wisconsin, 2003. xii Gartner, Gustav William. Raised Field Landscapes of Native North America Thesis (Ph. D.). Madison: The University of Wisconsin, 2003. xiii Gartner, Gustav William. Raised Field Landscapes of Native North America Thesis (Ph. D.). Madison: The University of Wisconsin, 2003. xiv University of Minnesota Board of Regents. Three Sisters Planting Activity: online, June 21, 2010. <http://intersectingart.umn.edu/?document/view_document/18> xv University of Minnesota Board of Regents. Three Sisters Planting Activity: online, June 21, 2010. <http://intersectingart.umn.edu/?document/view_document/18>

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