Indigenous Women’s Ways of Knowing and Ecological Sustainability in Yosemite Valley

Authors: Katie Wade*, California State University, Long Beach
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Cultural Ecology, Women
Keywords: Indigenous knowledge, Yosemite National Park, indigenous women, sustainability
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Jackson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Yosemite National Park continually embarks on ecological restoration projects with distinct goals. One of the main objectives is to ensure the park retains its wilderness character, which refers to the idea of nature apart from human influence. However, this wilderness aesthetic that was so pleasing to early explorers did not wholly occur without human influence. The landscape had been carefully engineered by the indigenous residents for thousands of years prior to European arrival. The life philosophies of the indigenous peoples lead to their land stewardship methodologies, which produced their traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). This research examines the TEK of indigenous women in Yosemite Valley and analyzes the ability for this knowledge to integrate into the ecological restoration and land sustainability practices of Yosemite National Park. Indigenous women have long been known to be the tribe’s ethnobotanists as they gather and cultivate plants necessary for survival. The methodology for this project includes literature analysis, archival research, participant observation, and semi-structured interviews with Yosemite staff and tribal members. Preliminary results indicate a dichotomy between land stewardship and land management. The indigenous ways of stewarding the land through use is contradictory to the views of the park which discourage human influence, however there are indigenous practices that encourage native plant growth and increase biodiversity. The integration of native practices with current restoration methods may be just what Yosemite National Park needs in this new climate.

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