In May 2010, Deconstructing Dinner travelled to Vancouver Island where two international conferences on ethnobiology were being hosted. Ethnobiology examines the relationships between humans and their surrounding plants, animals and ecosystems. Today, more and more people are expressing an interest to develop closer relationships with the earth. This leaves much to be learned from the research of ethnobiologists, and in particular, from the symbiotic human-earth relationships that so many peoples around the world have long maintained.
On this part III of the series, we listen to two presentations that share research into the relationships between indigenous peoples and marine life in what is now called British Columbia and Alaska.
Investigating Eggs Update
Also on the show – an update from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to our September 2 investigative report on alleged local food fraud.
Severn Cullis-Suzuki, masters in ethnobotany, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria (Haida Gwaii, BC) –
Similar to her father David Suzuki, Severn has devoted herself to increasing awareness on fundamental ecological concerns. Born and raised in Vancouver, at the age of 9, Severn founded the Environmental Childrens Organization. In 1992 at the age of 12, she attended the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro where she received praise for a speech she delivered. She went on to graduate from Yale University in 2002, hosted a television series on Discovery Channel, and was eventually led to study ethnobotany under Nancy Turner. Her focus of research led her to Northern Vancouver Island – home to the Kwakwaka-wakw people. It was there that Severn studied the keystone species Zostera marina – also known as eelgrass – or to the Kwakwaka-wakw (ts’ats’ayem).
Josh Wisniewski, PhD candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Fairbanks (Fairbanks, AK) –
Josh received his BA and MA in anthropology from the University of Alaska Anchorage. His research explores the complex sets of relations between Iñupiaq and Yup’ik societies and marine mammals through time and the ontological premises shaping local and traditional ecological knowledge. Josh’s research has recently been focused in Shishmaref, Alaska, where he has worked with Iñupiaq hunters and elders exploring and documenting ecological knowledge of bearded seals and historic and contemporary hunting practices.
Nancy Turner, distinguished professor, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria (Victoria, BC) –
Born in Berkeley, California, Nancy moved to Victoria at the age of 5 and she lives there today as a Distinguished Professor in the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria. She earned a PhD in Ethnobotany in 1974 from the University of British Columbia when she studied three contemporary indigenous groups of the Pacific Northwest (the Haida, Bella Coola and Lillooet). Nancy’s major research has demonstrated the role of plant resources in past and present aboriginal cultures and languages as being an integral component of traditional knowledge systems. Nancy has also played an important role in helping demonstrate how traditional management of plant resources has shaped the landscapes and habitats of western Canada. In 1999 Nancy received the Order of British Columbia and in 2009 received the Order of Canada. She’s authored numerous books including, among others, Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples, Food Plants of Interior First Peoples, Plants of Haida Gwaii and The Earth’s Blanket – Traditional Teachings for Sustainable Living.
James Rogowsky, specialist, egg products, Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) (Winnipeg, MB) –
The CFIA is the arm of Health Canada in charge of safeguarding food, animals and plants.
Download the audio for this episode here.