Sustainability Science

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 1443–1452 | Cite as

Anishnaabe Aki: an indigenous perspective on the global threat of invasive species

  • Nicholas J. ReoEmail author
  • Laura A. Ogden
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Concepts, Methodology, and Knowledge Management for Sustainability Science
  2. Concepts, Methodology, and Knowledge Management for Sustainability Science


Conservation discourses tend to portray invasive species as biological entities temporally connected to colonial timelines, using terms such as “alien”, “colonizing”, “colonial”, and “native”. This focus on a colonial timeline emerges from scientific publications within conservation biology and invasion ecology and is enacted through invasive species management by state and NGO actors. Colonialism is influential for indigenous nations in myriad ways, but in what ways do indigenous understandings of invasive species engage with colonialism? We conducted ethnographic research with indigenous Anishnaabe communities to learn about the ways Anishnaabe people conceptualize invasive species as a phenomenon in the world and were gifted with three primary insights. First, Anishnaabe regard plants, like all beings, as persons that assemble into nations more so than “species”. The arrival of new plant nations is viewed by some Anishnaabe as a natural form of migration. The second insight highlights the importance of actively discovering the purpose of new species, sometimes with the assistance of animal teachers. Lastly, while Anishnaabe describe invasive species as phenomenologically entangled with colonialism, the multiple ways Anishnaabe people think about invasive species provide alternatives to native–non-native binaries that dominate much of the scientific discourse.


Indigenous knowledge Traditional ecological knowledge Invasive species Global change Sustainability 



Research for this project was supported by funding from the Claire Garber Goodman Foundation at Dartmouth College. Chi miigwech (biggest thanks) to all the Anishnaabe and non-Anishnaabe people who shared their knowledge and perspectives with us concerning Anishnaabe aki and introduced species, including many individuals who we did not have space to quote in this manuscript. We appreciate our colleagues Matthew Ayres and Richard Howarth for feedback on early drafts of this paper and our anonymous peer reviewers for their insightful suggestions that significantly improved our paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Studies Program and Native American Studies ProgramDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA

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