Photo courtesy Flickr
Saturday I shared a lunch table with a native American who snickered about buying bottled water and paying to exercise. The man could easily pick up a steer and throw it into the back of a truck, and he’s working on a tribal project to generate electricity from “biomass”, solid waste from big cities. It seems poetic that the first, or at least earlier, people should be early adopters of green tech.
The keynote speaker at the lunch talked about the tribes’ managing local forests with controlled burns, and how hard it is to replicate their techniques. It will take, he said, several hundred years to learn how to use fire correctly in the woods. Later, my partner commented that the elders who knew forest management died without anyone interviewing them.
One of the elders spoke, and she recalled learning life skills from her mother and grandmother. Listening, I was transported back to my grandmother’s kitchen and to her tales of preparing breakfast in a homestead log cabin.
The luncheon was held in the Washington State History Museum. Over the last few years, I have discovered how deep the roots of my family run on this side of the mountains, and how looking carefully at the past has revealed a tenacious web of connections among apparently unrelated elements of memory. It can take many years to appreciate the significance of behaviors that at one time seem ordinary.
Listening to the director’s account of the legislature’s recent harrowing budget hearings, I was appalled to learn the story of the museum’s near-death experience. That brought home like nothing else the fragility of a culture and the truly heroic bootstrapping efforts of the tribes.
-30- More after the jump.