USDA Blog: California tribes work to maintain traditional foods

Ron Reed of the Karuk Tribe's Food Crew collects gooseberries. Photo by Colleen Rossier / USDA / Flickr

The Karuk Tribe and the Yurok Tribe are working with the University of California and the U.S. Forest Service to maintain their traditional foods:
The Karuk and Yurok Tribes traditionally managed entire watersheds and ecosystems on their ancestral lands to meet their dietary, cultural and spiritual needs. The Tribes are now working with University of California -Berkeley, University of California -Davis, the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to reestablish the once rich and bio-diverse ecology of their ancestral homeland forests and waterways using traditional agroforestry management systems.

“By putting fire back on the landscape, we intend to restore the currently wildfire-prone food desert into a healthy, bio-diverse, fruit, nut and wildlife-rich forest,” said Karuk Department of Natural Resources Director Leaf Hillman.Yurok Heritage Preservation Officer Bob McConnell added, “Wise use of fire will enable both the Yurok and the Karuk Tribes to incorporate many other traditional management techniques into forest restoration as well. Once the forests are more open, local practitioners will be better able to restore hundreds of smaller patches across the forest currently too overgrown to access.”

The traditional land management systems of the Karuk and Yurok Tribes include forest-grown foods, such as acorns, pine nuts, huckleberries, hazelnuts, raspberries, deer, elk and mushrooms, as well as salmon and eels that require cool, spring-fed water. While these foods are still present, they are scarce compared to historic levels. This year, for example, there may not be enough acorns for annual ceremonies.

Get the Story:
Kate MacFarland and Colleen Rossier: Re-establishing Tribal Biodiversity through Agroforestry (USDA Blog 11/17)

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