Indigenous food systems and traditional land management techniques are the best options for tackling ecological restoration. However, outdated scientific models and conservative views on environmentalism has led many researchers to overlook and discount traditional ecological knowledge held by Indigenous peoples. That’s according to a new study in Frontiers.

Researchers from the Indigenous Ecology Laboratory at the University of British Columbia, and the Historical-Ecological Research Laboratory at Simon Fraser University looked at two restoration efforts in St’at’imc and Quw’utsun territories and outlined a method known as “pop-up restoration” employed by environmental NGOs, extraction industries, and government agencies that offers prescriptive techniques to restore and heal land without considering local, Indigenous scientific practices. Pop-up restoration, the authors suggest, comes from deeply rooted misconceptions of Indigenous livelihoods and knowledge due to long-standing, deeply ingrained prejudices and racist ideas.

According to the researchers, pop-up restoration, or restoration initiatives that don’t make their restoration goals and impose inequities on unceded and stolen lands, often overlooks traditional food systems and Indigenous histories.

In the report, the authors assessed two disturbance-restoration cycles and the ways Indigenous food systems approach restoration ecology and Indigenous land— especially when restoration erases longstanding land management and stewardship efforts.

“An Indigenous food systems lens provides a holistic approach to food production, distribution, and consumption, that centers humans’ coexistence with other living beings and prioritizes a cultural-ecological equilibrium over exploitation or fixed restoration goals,” wrote the authors.

The first example comes from St’at’imc territory in British Columbia, where St’at’imc voices were ignored by the government, hunters and ranchers while providing traditional knowledge for the restoration of lands devastated by a wildfire.

In June 2021 a heat dome in the region created record-breaking temperatures resulting in 619 heat related deaths and creating extreme fire conditions over much of the Pacific Northwest eventually leading to the McKay Creek Wildfire which burned about 85 miles of forest.

Read the full article about Indigenous knowledge of ecosystems by Lyric Aquino at Grist.