by Comrade Black
I have decided I want to get a tattoo of some Dandelions and Stinging Nettles, because:
a) both are considered weeds (unwanted species, pests)
b) they are super healthy, both as foods, and as medicinesc) both grew wild in the areas I grew up as well as in the Cascadian bio-region where I currently live
d) Nettles are good for arthritis, which I have a bad form of called Ankelosing Spondalitis (AS), as well as Fibramialgia which Nettles are helpful with
e) both are invasive species brought over from Europe by whites, which as awesome and healthy and healing as they can be, they are pushing out native species and taking over, so I think it is a good metaphor as a settler person who is anti-colonial.
I have also been thinking that white settlers should be harvesting our traditional foods and medicines which are now invasive here, these plants are our heritage, and thus are attuned to our bodies so they make sense for us to consume. But also because by harvesting them we could be helping to push back their spread if enough of us were doing it; and in doing so we would be helping native species to thrive which are the traditional foods and medicines for the indigenous people (both human and non-human people) who have always existed here. I think it is important to have an anti-colonial analysis when engaging with practices like wild harvesting or rewilding, as to not perpetuate colonialism. I remember a Lekwungen woman who teaches about traditional foods and the importance of Camas to her people, saying that now when she teaches settlers she tries to ensure not to teach them too much. She wants them to understand how and why it is so important, so they will respect the plant and not harm them or even to help protect them from invasives; but has learned the hard way if you teach too much people will go take them all and there won’t be any for Lekwungen people to harvest.
Learning about local ecology is important if we are going to both decolonize and to reduce our impact on the land, but I think we need to start leaving the native plants for the natives as much as possible. If you are going to harvest native species, consider finding ways in which that action will directly benefit the people who’s lands you are occupying. Examples of this could be to give a large portion of your harvest to them, especially if you know someone who is unable to harvest themselves do to time constraints or illness and disability, and of course if you do harvest native species don’t take too much so the plants can regenerate. If we are taking this knowledge on how to harvest and identify local species, we need to be giving back to those who gave us that knowledge, those who’s lands we are occupying. It is far past time we began to give back and quit taking. Settlers have taken their lands, their children to put in residential schools and foster homes, their traditions and parts of their spirituality; far more than was ever offered. If we ever hope to change our relationship to this land and the people who are still struggling to resist colonization, we need to quit taking and not act like settler colonists any more.
One way to start is by taking back what is ours instead. We live in a society where governments spend billions on war, prisons, police, and surveillance, while people starve in the streets, meanwhile there is a salad growing in your front yard, down the street and in every park and roadside on this continent. And it is waiting for you to go pick it so other species can thrive!