Invasives & Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Eleva Potter, Stewardship in Action Teacher

In Stewardship in Action, students explored the issue of invasive species through both a Western and an Indigenous perspective. Jean Hack, the Stewardship Coordinator, explained to the students the four non-native plants that are the most aggressive on campus: Tansy, Spotted Knapweed, Crown Vetch, and Canada Thistle. The students also listened to a podcast ‘Every plant and animal is useful to us': Indigenous Professor Re-thinking How We Deal With Invasive Species by Nicholas Reo, an assistant professor of Native American and environmental studies at Dartmouth College and a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan.

In the podcast, Reo explained that "every plant and animal is useful to us in some way or multiple ways and it is our responsibility to figure out how they are useful." Reo is looking for ways to turn invasive species into food, fuel, fiber, and building material. Students at Conserve have already sampled invasive species as wild edibles and turned invasives plants into paper. After students were challenged to the look at invasive species on campus through both Western and Indigenous perspective they went outside to identify and remove the plants along the Inner Loop and in the garden to help them from spreading further, especially into the Sylvania Wilderness Area.

On Friday, for class with families visiting, CS17 student mom Melonee Montano, a Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Specialist with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission share about the concept of TEK and how she uses it in her work. She travels to different reservations to interview elders and tribal members about their memories and knowledge of the natural world including phenology, species presence, change or decline and other aspects of climate change. Her work has helped to identify which species are most vulnerable to climate change.

These experiences help students look at nature and culture with more than one perspective and advances the Conserve School Learning Goals of "Understands and critically evaluates the complexities of environmental issues, including their ethical dimensions, and advocates effectively for what they believe is just" and "Understands the ecology, history, and cultures of the Northwoods from the local to the global levels."

Photos Contributed by Eleva Potter, Stewardship in Action Teacher