What does it mean to "Tend the Wild"?

In June, over 40 people gathered at the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center for "Tending the Wild," a new OAEC course that melds indigenous knowledge with permaculture principles to address an issue that's on many of our minds: how do we restore our degraded landscapes—and our relationships with those landscapes?

Tending the Wild group photo

According to course instructors M. Kat Anderson and Dennis Martinez, "ownership" of natural resources in indigenous economic models means choosing stewardship. But because of the Western economic model's emphasis on reaping maximum possible yields from land, many of us see "conservation" as one of two things:

  1. leaving nature exactly as we find it,
  2. or entering nature to fix a problem (probably one that we created), then leaving it alone.


Both of these ideas are based on the belief that humans are separate from nature, rather than a part of it, and that sustaining ourselves from a landscape is inherently destructive. The goal of Tending the Wild was to change that story. 

Through hands-on field work, presentations and discussions, course participants learned not just how to restore land but also to "re-story" their relationship to place; to reawaken to the potential that human beings can not only peacefully "co-exist," but also benefit the land and life around us with our presence.

For instance, we saw that digging up native yampah (Perideridia gairdneri) roots not only provides a nutritious food source, but also loosens the soil for the benefit of the yampah population.Manzanita berries And thinning douglas firs to build round-pole structures both creates housing and strengthens our keystone oak population, which is currently overcrowded by young fir trees. 

As Melissa Elgin, course participant and member of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheriacommented—the sheer number and diversity of people in attendance at Tending the Wild seemed to speak to the growing desire to remember ancient ways that have been forgotten in modern times.

"No matter who you are, wildtending is true to your ancestors," Kat Anderson told us on the first day of the course. "My ancestors in the British Isles used salmon traps made of hazel branches [Corylus spp.] similar to the ones made by the California coastal Miwok people." It's no wonder, then, that the yearning to reclaim our human ancestry—to again become of place—is so widely felt.


Thanks so much to those who joined us for our first-ever Tending the Wild. This course was the beginning of a new focus on our Wildlands Biodiversity program

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Ethan Castro, indigenous watercraft


Attached below is the PDF file of "Acorn: the Perennial Grain," an article by Kyle Keegan on processing and using acorns. It's favorite reading material of our Wildlands Program's new Associate Director, Lindsay Dailey.

Acorn - The Perennial Grain.pdf131.42 KB