Living on the Edge: Ecological and Cultural Edges as Sources of Diversity for Social—Ecological Resilience

Abstract

A well-known facet of ecosystems is that the edges—the boundaries or transitions from one ecosystem to another—often exhibit high levels of species richness or biodiversity. These transitional areas often show features of species composition, structure, and function representative of the ecosystems they transcend, as well as having their own unique array of species and characteristics. Cultural transitional areas—zones where two or more cultures converge and interact—are similarly rich and diverse in cultural traits, exhibiting cultural and linguistic features of each of the contributing peoples. This results in an increase in cultural capital, and resilience, by providing a wider range of traditional ecological knowledge and wisdom on which to draw, especially in times of stress and change. We propose that indigenous peoples whose living territories traverse ecological edges have a correspondingly increased access to economically important resources and therefore have a greater capacity for flexibility. Finally, we suggest that indigenous peoples are drawn to areas having a high incidence of ecological edges, and furthermore, that they actively create and maintain ecological edges. This practice provides them with a greater diversity of cultural capital and helps to maintain their flexibility and resilience. Examples from several regions of Canada are provided, from the southern interior of British Columbia, to the Lake Winnipeg watershed of Manitoba and Ontario, to James Bay.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Adger, W. N. (2000). Social and ecological resilience: Are they related? Progress in Human Geography 24: 347–364.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Andre, A. (2000). Culturally important plant species of Northern First Peoples, Unpublished report, Environmental Studies, University of Victoria.

  3. Anderson, K. M. (1996). Tending the wilderness. Restoration and Management Notes 14(2): 154–166.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Barth, F. (1956). Ecological relationships of ethnic groups in Swat, north Pakistan. American Anthropologist 58: 1079–1089.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Berkes, F. (1999). Sacred Ecology: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Resource Management, Taylor & Francis, Philadelphia, PA.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Berkes, F., and Folke, C. (1994). Investing in cultural capital for the sustainable use of natural capital. In Jansson, A. M., Hammer, M., Folke, C., and Costanza, R. (eds.), Investing in Natural Capital: The Ecological Economics Approach to Sustainability, Island Press, Washington, DC, pp. 128–149.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Berkes, F., and Folke, C. (eds.) (1998). Linking Social and Ecological Systems. Management Practices and Social Mechanisms for Building Resilience, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Berkes, F., Colding, J., and Folke, C. (eds.) (2003). Navigating Social–Ecological Systems: Building Resilience for Complexity and Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Birchwater, S. (with Ulkatcho and Nuxalk Elders) (1993). Ulkatcho Stories of the Grease Trail, Ulkatcho Culture Curriculum Committee, Anahim Lake.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Blackburn, T. C., and Anderson, K. (eds.) (1993). Before the Wilderness: Environmental Management by Native Californians, Ballena Press, Menlo Park, CA.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Boyd, R. (ed.) (1999). Indians, Fire and the Land in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Brothers, T. S. (1993). Fragmentation and edge effects in central Indiana old-growth forests. Natural Areas Journal 13(4): 268–275.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Brush, S. B. (1976). Introduction to cultural adaptations to mountain ecosystems. Human Ecology 4: 125–135.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Bye, R., and Linares, E. (2000). Relationships between Mexican ethnobotanical diversity and indigenous peoples. In Minnis, P. E., and Elisens, W. J. (eds.), Biodiversity and Native America, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, pp. 44–73.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Carlson, C. C. (2000). Archaeology of a contact-period plateau salishan village at Thompson's River Post, Kamloops, British Columbia. In. Nassaney, M. S., and Johnson, E. S. (eds.), Interpretations of Native North American Life: Material Contributions to Ethnohistory, University of Florida Press, Gainsville, pp. 272–291.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Compton, B. D. (1993). Upper North Wakashan and Southern Tsimshian Ethnobotany: The Knowledge and Usage of Plants and Fungi among the Oweekeno, Hanaksiala (Kitlope and Kemano), Haisla (Kitamaat) and Kitasoo Peoples of the Central and North Coasts of British Columbia. Unpublished PhD Dissertation, Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Cronon, W. (1983). Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England, Hill and Wang, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Davidson-Hunt, I. J. (2001). Traditional ecological knowledge documentation. Technical Report No. 1. NCE Sustainable Forest Management Network Project. Combining Scientific and First Nations Knowledge for the Management and Harvest of Traditional and Commercial Non-timber Forest Products, Natural Resources Institute, Winnipeg, MN.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Davidson-Hunt, I. J., and F. Berkes. (2003). Nature and society through the lens of resilience: Toward a human-in-ecosystem perspective. In Berkes, F., Colding, J., and Folke, C. (eds.), Navigating Social–Ecological Systems: Building Resilience for Complexity and Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 53–82.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Decosse, S. S. (1980). Athapaskan-Tlingit Trade Relations: The Case for Balanced Reciprocity, Unpublished MA Thesis, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Densmore, F. (1974). How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine and Crafts [Uses of Plants by the Chippewa Indians], Dover Publications. New York (Original work published 1928).

    Google Scholar 

  22. Densmore, F. (1979). Chippewa Customs, Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul. (Original work published 1929)

    Google Scholar 

  23. Deur, D. (2000). A Domesticated Landscape: Native American Plant Cultivation on the Northwest Coast of North America, PhD Dissertation, Department of Geography and Anthropology, Louisiana State University.

  24. Duff, W. (1964). The Indian History of British Columbia: The Impact of the White Man, Vol. 1, Anthropology in British Columbia Memoir No. 5, Provincial Museum of Natural History and Anthropology, Victoria, BC.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Ford, R. I. (2000). Human disturbance and biodiversity: A case study from northern new Mexico. In. Minnis, P. E., and Elisens, W. J. (eds.), Biodiversity and Native America, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, pp. 207–222.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Greer, S. (1995). Skookum Stories on the Chilkoot/Dyea Trail, Carcross-Tagish First Nation, Parks Canada, Yukon Region.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Gunderson, L. H., Holling, C. S., and Light, S. (eds.) (1995). Barriers and Bridges to the Renewal of Ecosystems and Institutions, Columbia University Press, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Gunderson, L. H., and Holling, C. S. (eds.) (2001). Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Systems of Humans and Nature, Island Press, Washington, DC.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Hallowell, A. I. (1992). In Brown, J. S. H. (ed.), The Ojibwa of Berens River, Manitoba: Ethnography into History, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers, Toronto, ON.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Halperin, R. H. (1994). Cultural Economies: Past and Present, University of Texas Press, Austin.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Hayden, B. (ed.) (1992). Complex Cultures of the British Columbia Plateau: Traditional Stl'atl'imx Resource Use, The University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Holling, C. S. (1973). Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 4: 1–23.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Ingold, T. (2000). The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill, Routledge Press, London, UK.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Johnson, L. M. (1999). Aboriginal burning for vegetation management in northern British Columbia. In Boyd R. (ed.), Indians, Fire and the Land in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, pp. 238–254.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Kennedy, D., and Bouchard, R. (1983). Sliammon Life, Sliammon Lands, Talonbooks, Vancouver, BC.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Lewis, H. T. (1977). Maskuta: The Ecology of Indian fires in Northern Alberta. The Western Canadian Journal of Anthropology 7(1): 15–52.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Lewis, H. T. (1982). A Time for Burning, Occasional Publication No. 17, Boreal Institute for Northern Studies, The University of Alberta, Edmonton.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Lewis, H. T., and Ferguson, T. A. (1988). Yards, corridors, and mosaics: How to burn a boreal forest. Human Ecology 16(1): 57–77.

    Google Scholar 

  39. McCay, B. (2000, Sept.). “Edges, Fields and Regions” (Presidential Address, Part II, IASCP 2000 Conference, Bloomington, Indiana). The Common Property Resource Digest 54, 6–8.

    Google Scholar 

  40. McIlwraith, T. F. (1948). The Bella Coola Indians (2 vols.), University of Toronto Press, Toronto, ON.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Mattern, M. (1996). The powwow as a public arena for negotiating unity and diversity in American Indian life. American Indian Culture and Research Journal 20(4): 183–201.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Meiners, S. J., and Pickett-Steward, T. A. (1999). Changes in community and population responses across a forest-field gradient. Ecography 22(5): 261–267.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Minnis, P., and Elisens, W. (eds.) (2000). Biodiversity and Native North America, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Mitchell, D., and Donald, L. (1988). Archaeology and the study of Northwest Coast economies. In Isaac, B. L. (ed.), Prehistoric Economies of the Pacific Northwest Coast, Research in Economic Anthropology Supplement 3, JAI Press, Greenwich, CT, pp. 293–351.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Nabhan, G. P. (2000). Native American management and conservation of biodiversity in the Sonoran Desert Bioregion. In Minnis, P. E., and Elisens, W. J. (eds.), Biodiversity and Native America, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, pp. 29–44.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Nabhan, G. P., Rea, A., Reichhardt, K. L. Mellink, E., and Hutchinson, C. F. (2000). Papago (O'odham) influences on habitat and biotic diversity. Quitovac Oasis Ethnoecology. In Minnis, P. E. (ed.), Ethnobotany. A Reader, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, pp. 41–62.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Nicholas, G. P. (1999). A light but lasting footprint: Human influences on the Northeast Landscape. In Levine, M. A., Sassaman, K. E., and Nassaney, M. S. The Archaeological Northeast, Bergin & Garvey, Westport, CT, ch. 2, pp. 26–38.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Odum, E. P. (1971). Fundamentals of Ecology, 3rd edn., W. B. Saunders, Philadelphia, PA.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Peacock, S., and Turner, N. J. (2000). “Just like a garden:” Traditional plant resource management and biodiversity conservation on the British Columbia Plateau. In Minnis, P., and Elisens, W. (eds.), Biodiversity and Native North America, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, pp. 133–179.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Ray, A. J. (1974). Indians in the Fur Trade: Their Role as Hunters, Trappers and Middlemen in the Lands Southwest of Hudson Bay 1660–1870, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, ON.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Resilience Alliance (2001). www.resalliance.org/programdescription.

  52. Rhoades, R. E., and Thompson, S. I. (1975). Adaptive strategies in alpine environments: Beyond ecological particularism. American Ethnologist 2: 535–551.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Smith, J. G. E. (1978). Economic uncertainty in an “original affluent society”: Caribou and caribou-eater Chipewyan adaptive strategies. Arctic Anthropology 15: 68–88.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Sproat, G. M. (1987). The Nootka: Scenes and Studies of Savage Life, Sono Nis Press, Victoria, BC. (Originally published as G. M. Sproat, 1868, Scenes and Studies of Savage Life, London, Smith/Elder)

    Google Scholar 

  55. Suttles, W. (1951). The early diffusion of the potato among the Coast Salish. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 7(3): 272–288.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Suttles, W. (1987). Affinal Ties, Subsistence and Prestige among the Coast Salish, in Coast Salish Essays, Talonbooks, Vancouver, BC. pp. 15–25. [Originally published in 1960, American Anthropologist, 62: 296–305].

    Google Scholar 

  57. Suttles, W. (ed.) (1990). In Sturtevant, W. (general ed.), Northwest Coast (Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 7), Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Teit, J. A. (1900). The Thompson Indians of British Columbia, Jesup North Pacific Expedition, Memoir Vol. 1, Part 4, American Museum of Natural History, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Teit, J. A. (1909). The Shuswap, Jesup North Pacific Expedition, Memoir Vol. 2, Part 7, American Museum of Natural History, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Turner, N. J. (1992). Plant Resources of the Stl'átl'imx (Fraser River Lillooet) People: A Window into the Past, In Hayden, B. (ed.), A Complex Culture of the British Columbia Plateau, The University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver. pp. 405–469.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Turner, N. J. (1995). Food plants of Coastal First Peoples, In Royal British Columbia Museum Handbook, The University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Turner, N. J. (1998). Plant Technology of British Columbia First Peoples. In Royal British Columbia Museum Handbook, The University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Turner, N. J. (1999). “Time to burn:” Traditional use of fire to enhance resource production by Aboriginal peoples in British Columbia. In Indians, Fire and the Land in the Pacific Northwest, Boyd, R. (ed.), Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, pp. 185–218.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Turner, N. J., Thompson, L. C., Thompson, M. T., and York, A. Z. (1990). Thompson Ethnobotany: Knowledge and Usage of Plants by the Thompson Indians of British Columbia, Memoir No. 3, Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Turner, N. J., and Loewen, D. C. (1998). The original “free trade:” Exchange of botanical products and associated plant knowledge in Northwestern North America. Anthropologica XL: 49–70.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Turner, N. J., and Peacock, S. (in press). “Solving the perennial paradox: Traditional plant management on the Northwest Coast.” In Deur, D., and Turner, N. J. (eds.), “Keeping it Living:” Indigenous Plant Management on the Northwest Coast, University of Washington Press, Seattle.

  67. Vennum, T., Jr. (1988). Wild Rice and the Ojibway People, Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Watts, D. (1997). Trading for food among the North Coastal First Nations, Good Cheer/Bon Temps 3(1): 1. (Cuisine Canada: The Canadian Culinary Alliance).

    Google Scholar 

  69. Wilson, G. L. (ed.) (1987). Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden, Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul. (Original work published 1917)

    Google Scholar 

  70. Winterhalder, B. (1983). The boreal forest, Cree-Ojibwa foraging and adaptive management. In Wein, R. W., Riewe, R. R., and Methven, I. R. (eds.), Resources and Dynamics of the Boreal Zone (Proceedings of a conference held at Thunder Bay, Ontario, Aug. 1982), Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies, Ottawa, ON. pp. 331–345.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Nancy J. Turner.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Turner, N.J., Davidson-Hunt, I.J. & O'Flaherty, M. Living on the Edge: Ecological and Cultural Edges as Sources of Diversity for Social—Ecological Resilience. Human Ecology 31, 439–461 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1025023906459

Download citation

  • cultural diversity
  • biodiversity
  • resilience
  • traditional ecological knowledge
  • indigenous peoples