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“It’s not a resource, it’s a way of life”: Salish Relational Ecologies and Territorialities

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14:00, Wednesday 10 May 2023 EDT (30 minutes)

This presentation provides a candid and collaborative reflection of some of the Indigenous (Salish) teachings, laws and protocols that denote a relational ecology within an expansive territory-of-life, a territorial vision of living well in times of the Anthropocene. With salmon and their migratory cycle as our guiding metaphor for research on the (re-)creation of the ‘good life’, we will reflect upon some fundamental teachings from the land by three preeminent Salish Elders and our partnered action research which offers insights from the relational theory and practical ecology of cw7it (Interior Salish St’át’imcets) “shared abundance” that ensures the continuity of a good life. Increasingly, human geographers, anthropologists, ethnobiologists, among others, are recognizing that Indigenous families e.g. in the Pacific Northwest, have been active and collaborative stewards and managers, not just foragers and consumers, of the resources and ecosystems on which they have relied (Deur and Turner 2005; Thornton et al. 2015; Deur et al. 2015). Salish fishers have developed diverse relational practices and protocols that have not only sustained, but enhanced, the resource species both in quantity and in quality including, for example, clam gardens, estuarine root gardens and salmon production benefitting the entire region (Deur and Turner 2005). These different production systems do not function alone but are components of an entire complex of territorial and resource management joining marine, riverine and terrestrial landscapes from ‘ocean bottom to mountaintop’ (Mathews and Turner 2017; Artelle et al. 2018). Indigenous relational ecologies, knowledge and (territorial) rights need to be honoured in order to maintain these complex relational webs and for reconciliation to be meaningful (TRU 2015). This paper will critically examine the ecological and reconciliatory possibilities based on the Salish relational teachings for living well in the Anthropocene.

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