Our Research Council of Finland (a.k.a Academy of Finland) funded project “Traditional Indigenous Ecological Knowledge, Re-Indigenization and National Parks: Toward a New Framework for Sustainable Co-Governance (IndEcol)” officially began on September 1st. The first task was to hire a researcher to work on this exciting project, and Doctoral candidate Sonja Salminiitty was the first researcher to hired. She is working on her dissertation, “Indigenization and Californian Central Coast Museums” that is closely linked to the larger theoretical concepts of (re)indigenization. In addition, she will work on two actual cases in this project. Our team will get a new member, University Researcher Klemetti Näkkäläjärvi (Sámi) in January 2024. He is living in Enontekiö, and will focus on Pallas-Yllästuntuntui national park and the Pöyrisjärvi wilderness area. Klemetti is the former chairperson of the Sámi Parliament and currently serves as the chairperson for the Sámi Climate Council.
Our research started with a bang as we were able to interview both the park personnel of the Valles Caldera Nature Preserve and the Jemez Pueblo (link to video, that will be added to our website later). This conversation will be a part of our new MOOC (Open Online Lecture Course) that will be part of this project deliverable and available to indigenous communities, national parks services etc. worldwide.
Sonja has already attended a webinar on the creation of the new Chumash Heritage National Marine sanctuary (Proposed Designation of Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary | Office of National Marine Sanctuaries) and I have set up interviews with the NOAA personnel in Monterey CA, and several Chumash elders in Santa Barbara California, where I will be conducting the first leg of fieldwork in October and November 2023. More to come, stay tuned.
Author: Rani-Henrik Andersson
In October 2023 the PI had the opportunity to start a three-month long research period first in California and then in Hawai’i. Our journey in California started with an interesting invitation by Chumash elder Roberto Cordero. She took us out to Santa Ynez where Chumash culture days were ongoing. We spent a beautiful day out in the countryside, met a lot of people and were able to attend cultural events like dances and games. What a wonderful start to our fieldwork.
My purpose on this trip was to meet with people, network, do some grant writing and also to get familiar with the Chumash homelands. With the help of Roberta Cordero, I was able to connect with other Chumash environmental experts like Violet Sage Walker, who has been actively working to establish a new Chumash Heritage Marine Sanctuary. We had interesting discussions on how the collaboration with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency) has worked so far and discussed the many complicated issues involved in developing a completely new marine protected area. I was also lucky enough to be invited by the director Mike Murray and Laura Ingulsrud to visit the NOAA facilities in Santa Barbara. Mike and Laura have actively worked with the Chumash communities in the establishment of this new sanctuary that was actually approved by the Biden administration last year. Michael and Laura were wonderful hosts, and we had a two hours lively discussion on indigenous engagement in natural protection in general and how the US government could and should work together to achieve common goals.
We were also able to meet with our good friends Julia Cordero Lamb and Teresa Romero. Julia took us to the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens and showed us what it really means to know your surroundings. Julia is an ethnobotanist and she carries Chumash traditional knowledge on plants native to the Southern California area. This traditional ecological knowledge is vital for our battle against climate change, and I hope that my project can bring forth new ways of bringing indigenous knowledges and so-called western science together to tackle these universal issues.
While in California, I also attended meetings workshops in Los Angeles where was happy to meet my old friends Josh reid, sam Truett, and Boyd Cothran again. Our joint project on Indigenous Borderlands is in full swing and we are hoping to publish yet another book next year.
Spent overall about 3 weeks in in California met with so many interesting and cool people and I'm so grateful for my friends for always being willing to listen to me and working with me and I hope this project will serve the Chumash community as well.
On November 10 we started our second leg of this research trip flying from Los Angeles to Honolulu. We had a nice little place in the in Makaha valley on the leeward side of Oahu. The town of Waianae was surprisingly run down and it took us a while to get used to the area. Both Sara and I were visiting scholars at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and were extremely kindly welcomed by the faculty, especially Professor Elizabeth Colville. She organized a dinner in our honor and invited the faculty too. That way we got to know a lot of people, who turned out to be well networked with key folks working with the National Park Service and NOAA.
Based on these initial meetings we went to see Doctor Hans Van den Tillburg NOAA marine archaeologist. He was kind enough to invite us to NOAA our headquarters inside Pearl Harbor military area. It was extremely interesting to learn about how NOAA incorporates indigenous knowledge and practices whenever it's doing research in Pacific marine protected areas. We also got to visit the Pacific tsunami warning center which was a really cool place. I'm looking forward to collaboration with Hans and his team.
On December 12 our next leg of the fieldwork started by taking a flight to Hawai’i island also known as Big Island. Our first stop was at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and meeting with Halena Kapuni Reynolds, who works for the Smithsonian Institute at the Museum of the American Indian as well as is an expert on indigenous perspectives on Volcanoes National Park. At Volcanoes NP we also go to talk to archaeologists and anger Summer Roper, who works on indigenous knowledge in an effort to incorporate indigenous ways to the management of the park. The tour of the park was interesting as the area is the site of the world's largest volcano Mauna Loa and the Kilauea crater just erupted few weeks earlier, unfortunately did not do so while we were there, but fumes were visible in and around the crater. Volcanoes National Park also holds tremendous cultural of values to the indigenous Hawaiians as the site of Pele. The park also includes jungles, lava tubes and tremendous lava fields where you can actually get a better understanding of how the island actually grows through volcanic activity.
On our way across the island, we also visited Mauna Kea, which is a very different kind of volcano with a lot of cinder cones dotting its sides. At Mauna Kea they have also started to include indigenous perspectives and talk about Hawaiian star navigation systems. Mauna Kea is a site of controversy since several new telescopes have been planned on top of the mountain and that, of course, is not approved by most indigenous Hawaiians. As we moved toward to the Kona coast, we were lucky to visit Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historic site https://www.nps.gov/puho/index.htm where I got to talk with Park Ranger Keola Awong. While small, this place too holds tremendous cultural value to indigenous Hawaiians as a place of shelter where people during war could escape to without fearing any harm from the enemies. It is also the home of Hawaiian kings and chiefs, and a place where, for example, a person who had committed a crime could go to. He would not be harmed after entering this sacred area. The person would go through ceremonies and come out as cleansed of their crimes. This place is one of those special places in the world, where you can immediately get a sense of a certain presence - in Hawaiian Mana.
In addition to these major site sites, I was able to visit other environmentally important places such as Ka’ena Point nature sanctuary and Kahana river area. Overall, these research periods in California and Hawai’i gave me a lot of new insights and thoughts about not only national parks but also marine sanctuaries as highly significant sites for environmental protection. Furthermore, they are also places where indigenous presence should be emphasized and be brought to the management of the area in an effort to create abundance through indigenous stewardship practices.
Author: Rani-Henrik Andersson