Indigenous Land-Based Sustainability Practices

Indigenous land-based sustainability practices are habitat restoration strategies that respond to the growing environmental and community needs of climate change. These practices support in the recovery of Indigenous land-based knowledge or traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and have been utilized successfully throughout Turtle Island by Indigenous peoples for generations. TEK can be summarized as the sum total of the ethnobotanical knowledge of an Indigenous people found in a climate zone. TEK practices vary significantly, even amongst linguistic relatives, depending on climate zone, habitat, and lifestyle choices, but generally speaking these practices ensure that multitudes of interconnected organisms, including humans, thrive. From terraced gardens in the Andean Mountains, to clam gardens along the Pacific Northwest coast, to a food forests in South Western Ontario - Indigenous ancestors utilized the gifts of various flora and fauna to empower their civilization to blossom.

Indigenous land-based sustainability practices in the food forests of South Western Ontario can effectively be broken down into the follow seven steps (excerpts for this section are taken directly from Dr. Andrew Judge’s 2018 dissertation, Western University):

Step 1: Observing, planning, and community engagement

Step 2: Clearing the land, seed saving, and initiating a design

Step 3: Planting, irrigating and fertilizing

Step 4: Maintenance

Step 5: Harvesting

Step 6: Preparing, preserving, and storing harvest and seed

Step 7: Sharing and trading

Indigenous land-based sustainability practices are dependent on the health of a multitude of organisms, from the largest mammals to the smallest bugs. These survival strategies also depended on cooperation of many groups of Indigenous peoples, all who practiced these sustainability strategies in their varying regions.

Click here for more on these seven practices.