UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Gardening in Ashes: The Possibilities and Limitations of Gardening to Support Indigenous Health and Well-Being in the Context of Wildfires and Colonialism Timler, Kelsey; Sandy, Dancing Water


In this paper, we will discuss gardening as a relationship with nature and an ongoing process to support Indigenous health and well-being in the context of the climate crisis and increasingly widespread forest fires. We will explore the concept of gardening as both a Euro-Western agriculture practice and as a longstanding Indigenous practice—wherein naturally occurring gardens are tended in relationship and related to a wider engagement with the natural world — and the influences of colonialism and climate change on both. Drawing on our experiences as an Indigenous Knowledge Keeper (Dancing Water) and a non-Indigenous community-based researcher (Kelsey), our dialogue will outline ways to support health and well-being through land-based activities that connect with Indigenous traditions in ways that draw on relationships to confront colonialism and the influences of climate change. This dialogue is founded on our experiences in the central interior of British Columbia, Canada, one of the areas hit hardest by the 2017 wildfires. We will explore the possibilities and limitations of gardening and the wider concept of reciprocity and relationship as a means to support food security, food sovereignty, and health for Indigenous Peoples.

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