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BC Studies

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Ethnohistory -- Pacific Northwest, Human-plant relationships, First Nations (Canada) -- British Columbia, Resource management


This article provides an overview of the diverse plant resource management strategies of First Nations of British Columbia. Management practices range from relatively large-scale (geographically) and longterm activities – such as the use of fire to clear prairies and subalpine meadows – to very focused actions, such as the pruning of individual shrubs. We describe plant resource management practices and the diverse methods used to identify them, and focus on three case studies to augment this description. These case studies exemplify the range of plants and ecosystems that were managed as well as the combinations of strategies and outcomes encompassed within these systems. While we focus our review on coastal British Columbia, we recognize that these are practices that occurred throughout northwestern North America. We also recognize that plant management is nested within a larger continuum of management practices that encompassed terrestrial and aquatic animals and their ecosystems (Carpenter, Humchitt, and Eldridge 2000; Lepofsky and Caldwell in press; Thornton et al. 2010). We end this summary with a discussion of how traditional and “new” management approaches introduced by European newcomers were integrated into “moditional management systems,” and we identify some of the more recent trends in the study of Indigenous management systems. Finally, we focus on future prospects for traditional plant management as part of the contemporary movements towards ethnoecological restoration, cultural renewal, and enhanced food security for Indigenous peoples – a point explored more fully in the final section of this special issue.


PSU Professor Douglas Deur and his coauthors received the Forest History Society's 2014 Theodore C. Blegen Award for best article in Forest and Conservation History for this work.

This open access article was originally published in the special theme issue Ethnobotany of British Columbia: Plants and People in a Changing World, BC Studies no. 179 Autumn 2013.

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