Regenerating Landscapes, Restoring Relations

Left to right - Heron Brae of Live Oak Consulting, Abel Kloster of the Center for Rural Livelihoods, Esther Stutzman, and Shannin Stutzman of the Komemma Cultural Protection Association. (Courtesy photo)

May 26 - The Center for Rural Livelihoods and Live Oak Consulting have teamed up to run a six-module workshop on Indigenous land stewardship titled “Regenerating Landscapes, Restoring Relations” that has attracted over 160 individuals from business leaders, government agencies, nonprofits, local Native Americans, and land stewards.

“The success of the workshop has a lot to do with the foresight of Live Oak Consulting,” said Josh Fattal, the executive director of the Center for Rural Livelihoods. “People from all walks of life are eager to learn about Indigenous perspectives on how caring for land can revitalize local cultures and transform local ecologies.”

“Regenerating Landscapes, Restoring Relations” consisted of three online modules and three site visits. Each of the three online modules were built on each other to familiarize participants with local Native American history, traditional ecological knowledge, and legal and social arrangements to increase Indigenous access to land.

The three field visits consist of unique sites in Yoncalla, near Eugene, and on Siletz Tribal land, each actively exploring how ecological practices of land tenure can support cultural revitalization.

In Yoncalla, Kalapuya elder, Esther Stutzman and her daughter Shannin Stutzman, told stories from this land and participants explored forest ecologies and the habitat of the Native dietary staple, camas.

At the Andrew Reasoner Wildlife Preserve in Eugene, workshop participants learned about the Traditional Ecological Inquiry Project that encourages Native youth to develop an inquisitive mind for ecological engagement. Joe Scott, the director of the program, creates an environment of community and family support for young people to be creative and inquisitive in such a way that serves to revitalize Native cultures.

At the field visit, several members of a controlled fire burn crew that specializes in re-introducing cultural fire into landscapes shared their firsthand experience of linking their livelihoods, ecological practices, and cultural renewal.

Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States, sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark west in 1804 to expand what he called the American “Empire of Liberty,” and by the middle of the nineteenth century, Anglo-American settlers reached Oregon in droves.

What was once a thriving tapestry of Native American tribes and bands, was first drastically depopulated by disease brought by the settlers then, decimated by the genocidal project of rounding up Indigenous people and concentrating them into camps. Jefferson’s empire of liberty for propertied white male settlers was predicated on ethnic cleansing that destroyed the societies, cultures, and ecologies of the area.

In “Regenerating Landscapes, Restoring Relations” Live Oak Consulting taught about this history and how it relates to current dynamics between Native and non-Native residents. They worked with esteemed Oregon State University professor David Lewis to give texture and details to Kalapuyan life in the Willamette Valley, and program participants watched Skookum Tillicum, a film about the Siletz peoples.

The Center for Rural Livelihoods’ collaboration with Live Oak Consulting was made possible by Business Oregon’s Rural Opportunities Initiative. CRL’s staff – in partnership with a Cottage Grove firm Resilience Permaculture – have contributed to developing the landscape plans for two of the three field visit sites and CRL’s volunteer work crews spend days working at the sites of the partner organizations.

The Center’s goals include the creation of an equitable local economy that works for all people based on regenerative ecological practices that make catastrophic wildfire less likely, that provide meaningful jobs for local youth, and provide lumber for affordable housing.

Live Oak Consulting is a leader in the field of decolonization, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. The Native-led firm has consulted for businesses, government agencies, and museums across the nation. Locally, they have led trainings for the City of Eugene, the Upper Willamette Conservation District, and many other organizations. According to their website, their goal is to bridge cultural differences for mutually beneficial and sustainable partnerships.

Fattal appreciates the partnership with Live Oak Consulting. “It has grounded our work in the fraught history of the region, and it makes our work stronger.”

Center for Rural Livelihoods, located at 80574 Hazelton Rd., is a 40-acre site that showcases its 42 years of experimentation in sustainable living and ecological land stewardship. It is hosting an open house on June 24th for a brief tour of the land and a chance to meet the Residential Fellows and staff. Doors open at 11 a.m. with a tour at noon; and ends at 1 p.m.