How Native Americans Managed "Wild" Land Long Before Settlers

indigenous land management photo
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When European settlers first came to North America, they assumed they were looking at "untouched" nature. Sure, there were native peoples, but history tells us they didn't value the skills or knowledge of the existing civilizations too highly. The fertile landscapes they were beholding must have been ordained direct from God. In making this assumption, they overlooked one of the most sophisticated, wide-spread and sustainable forms of land management ever practiced.

native american land management burning photo

Woodbine Ecology Center/Video screen captureMany of these landscapes were not "wild" or untouched by humans—they were in fact carefully created using a broad range of indigenous, land management techniques. Now sustainable agriculture activists are seeking to revive the knowledge that has been lost.

The video above from Perennial Solutions is yet another reminder that we overlook traditional knowledge at our peril. And while the idea of sustainable burning as an agriclutural method may sound alien to many euro-centric ears, we've already learned from Australia that traditional fire management as practiced by native people in Australia can actually help fight climate change.

Native American regenerative harvests photo

Woodbine Ecology Center/Video screen capture

But fire management is just one part of it. Transporting "wild" seeds (seed bombs anyone?), regenerative harvesting (like coppicing), and selective domestication (without fancy seed banks) were all tools in the Native American sustainable agricultural toolbox. And they shaped a "wilderness" that has since been largely lost under European-style agriculture.

native american horticultural techniques photo

Woodbine Ecology Center/Video screen capture

As the video suggests, check out the Woodbine Ecology Center to learn what's being done to bring these skills back.