The Cultural Work of Ecological Restoration: Reading the Role of Indigeneity in Three against the Wilderness and Buffalo for the Broken Heart

The Cultural Work of Ecological Restoration: Reading the Role of Indigeneity in Three against the... Ecological restoration strives to create the material circumstances for an increase in the biodiversity of an ecosystem. Restoration projects are generally ongoing, active engagements with an ecosystem aimed at restarting and facilitating the dynamic processes of evolution. To complement the scientific nature of restoration, prominent contributors to the field have expressed a keen interest in a cultural component of this work.1 Recognizing that the roots of ecological degradation extend well beyond the scientific realm, restoration ecologists posit the need for an ontological shift to ensure the success of restoration projects in perpetuity. This call for new cultural knowledge and practices has a long history in American environmental discourse, especially in looking to Native Americans as models; however, it has often been carried out problematically, resulting in what environmental anthropologist Shepard Krech calls the Ecological Indian trope.2 By decontextualizing indigenous customs, this trope “occludes its actual connection to the behavior it purports to explain” (Krech 27). As a result, the environmental lessons garnered from Native American cultures become separated from the geographic specificities out of which they arose and within which they are most productively implemented. Further, the trope renders indigenous cultures obsolescent by confining them to an antiquated past that has few corollaries to the present moment. In this article, I examine how two memoirs of restoration projects work toward an ecologically-oriented ontology through a more ethical engagement with native cultures: Eric Collier’s Three against the Wilderness (1959) and Dan O’Brien’s Buffalo for the Broken Heart (2001). The former is a Canadian memoir chronicling the Collier family’s efforts to restore the beaver population in British Columbia’s Meldrum Creek watershed; the latter, an American memoir, relates O’Brien’s experiences converting a South Dakota ranch from raising cattle to buffalo.3 The pairing of these two works, in spite of their considerable spatial and temporal separation, yields insights into the cultural work of ecological restoration as a progressive, place-based endeavor. Given their active engagements with indigenous peoples and establishment of economically sustainable restoration projects, these texts represent useful models for my discussion. Collier and O’Brien aim to create an ecologically-minded approach to extractive practices that have historically been detrimental to local ecosystems—fur-trapping and ranching, respectively.4 Through their awareness of native peoples’ historic imbrication within these industries, they understand indigenous knowledge and cultural practice as historically situated and geographically contingent. Unlike the Ecological Indian trope that consigns native peoples to an anachronistic existence, Collier and O’Brien present moments of ethical encounter with indigenous peoples. In so doing, they elucidate the inextricability of the cultural work from their larger projects of ecological restoration. In this examination of Three against the Wilderness and Buffalo for the Broken Heart, I explore how texts depicting ecological restoration projects can contribute to the cultural work of restoration. I begin with an outline of ecological restoration discourse that is grounded in Stuart Allison’s notion of “renewed restoration.” This discussion elucidates the key issues of a paradigm that has received little critical attention in the humanities.5 Out of this consideration of Allison’s model, I define a “novel culture” as a goal for the cultural work of restoration. A novel culture is composed of an unprecedented arrangement of social groups that has the potential to improve relations across social lines and with the environment. Finally, I examine how Collier’s and O’Brien’s memoirs strive toward a novel culture through their relations with native peoples. My reading draws upon Nelson’s “trickster consciousness,” Barilla’s model of the restoration site as a mosaic, and Jordan’s emphasis upon establishing new rituals as rubrics for gauging Collier’s and O’Brien’s efforts at realizing a novel culture. Ultimately, I contend that, by subverting the denigrating image of the Ecological Indian, these memoirs of ecological restoration projects provide an opportunity to redress this contentious relationship by offering an alternative that is sensitive to Native American cultures. By recognizing the need for renewed cultural connections and the collaborative presence of indigenous peoples throughout their memoirs, Collier and O’Brien proffer a new relation to native peoples as part of their projects, which emerges in the initial signs of a novel culture. “Renewed Restoration”: The Cultural Imperative Ecological restoration rose to institutional prominence in the 1980s, with the establishment of the journal Ecological Restoration in 1981 and the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) in 1988. While the management of landscapes and natural resources was by no means a new idea at the time, the journal and academic association gave ecologists, conservation biologists, and volunteers new forums to discuss the myriad issues arising from the praxis of restoration. To give shape and direction to an amorphous field of academics and practitioners, SER defined ecological restoration as “the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed” (3). It is important to note the purposeful ambiguity employed here. Because of the extent of ecological degradation in the twenty-first century, this definition makes no indication of specific areas for focus or a guide by which to implement restorative work. This lack of prescriptive measures suggests that there has been little consensus on the models and methods of ecological restoration. However, key figures in the field agree that the primary goal is to increase biodiversity, which would promote the dynamic evolutionary processes that are the hallmark of a healthy ecosystem. In spite of this shared target, disagreement arises within the field on how best to increase biodiversity. While one movement posits historical fidelity to a pre-disturbance ecosystem as its primary goal, a countermovement concedes the incontrovertible effects of climate change and the irreversible presence of invasive species. The latter group of restorationists emphasizes the need to embrace the realities of the present moment and to conceptualize projects that are future-oriented rather than retrospective.6 Stuart Allison enters this debate in Ecological Restoration and Environmental Change (2012), interposing a new model of renewed restoration and steering the discourse toward a consideration of culture. He defines renewed restoration as: ecological restoration that is restoration along the middle path: restoration projects that recognize the importance of the past pre-disturbance ecosystems by maintaining as much historical fidelity as possible, while utilizing the reality of rapidly changing, no-analogue, hybrid and novel ecosystems in order to promote biodiversity, ecosystem services and human connection to the environment. (120) This clear intervention into the discussion of ecological restoration’s methods forges a compromise between the two positions. Allison includes the promotion of a human–nature connection as an essential element of his model, moving restoration outside the sole realm of scientific praxis and into broader cultural considerations. The use of the phrase “middle path” is significant here. While Allison refers overtly to the need to strike a balance between wholly favoring either historical fidelity or hybrid and novel ecosystems, he also addresses the need to do the same between scientific and cultural work. Allison’s renewed restoration posits a cultural component as an imperative supplement to the ecological fieldwork of restoration. William Jordan, III extends this cultural shift by emphasizing the importance of personal experience and narrative to the restoration process. In “Restoration: Shaping the Land, Transforming the Human Spirit,” he argues that confining restoration solely to the realm of ecology “simply ignores what may be restoration’s greatest benefit—its value to the restorationist as a process, a way of learning about the system being restored, and finally a way of establishing an intimate, mutually beneficial relationship with it” (4–5). Jordan’s definition of the restorationist avoids an alignment with science. His ideal practitioner is actually not from a scientific background at all, but would learn ecology through the process of restoration.7 The desired outcome is not the achievement of encyclopedic, scientific understanding, but is rather a personal connection to the landscape’s ecosystem. This model of restoration underscores the inseparability of the cultural work from the ecological. Because of its ability to represent relationships meaningfully and to proliferate those expressions, storytelling serves a vital role in this cultural component of restoration. Jordan’s critical move creates a space for humanities scholars, who are uniquely positioned to examine the role of cultural production in either supporting or counteracting this meaningful relation to the place(s) in which one dwells. This acknowledgement of the need for a cultural change finds a salient depiction in Three against the Wilderness and Buffalo for the Broken Heart, both of which enact this cultural shift through an embrace of indigenous knowledge. Discussing the state of the Meldrum Creek watershed, Collier concedes that “no one had vision enough to couple this calamity with a complete decimation of the beavers that had taken place upon so many of the watersheds, except perhaps Lala, and a few other oldsters of her race. But no one sought the advice of any Indian upon such matters” (17). Collier acknowledges that a new mode of approaching and conceptualizing the watershed’s ecosystem is imperative to his project. He conveys this most clearly in his direct statement that the indigenous peoples are the only group with any probing insight into the decay of the watershed’s ecosystem. Collier furthers this appeal by positing that the Chilcotin not only have an understanding of the land that far exceeds that of the colonizers but also, as living members of the ecosystem, should be heard and valued in the future planning of the land.8 He enacts this shift in cognition by stressing Lala’s role in motivating the project, recalling that she “was to tell me of Meldrum Creek as it was before ever a white man laid eyes upon the watershed, and urge me to go to the creek with Lillian and give it back its beavers” (7). Collier validates Lala’s input by actively differentiating his understanding from her place-based knowledge, which provides the impetus for his attempt to restore the beaver population. Contrary to the “racist atmosphere” of early twentieth-century British Columbia, Bowman-Broz argues that “Collier welcomes Lala’s knowledge as contemporaneous and creative, rather than (as indigenous knowledge in 2011 is still often framed) as antiquated, useless, or vanishing” (76). Looking beyond certain prejudices of his time, Collier reconsiders the natural world within the context of historically situated interactions with indigenous people. For his part, O’Brien similarly recognizes the need for revising cultural conceptions of nature that engage native peoples as a source of insight. Ruminating on the similarities between the cattle and buffalo industries, O’Brien identifies “the heart of [his] buffalo blues. Even if buffalo someday returned, the same forces that brought them to near extinction would refuse to treat them like the Great Plains Eucharist that they are. There was great danger that they would be considered just another commodity” (183–4). In this experience at a buffalo auction, there is no discernible distinction between the treatment of buffalo and that of cattle. This phenomenon is immensely troubling to O’Brien, because it is an understanding of that basic difference that informs his entire restoration project. He believes buffalo are a sacred element of his ranch’s native ecosystem, a “Great Plains Eucharist.” The disparity he perceives here highlights the imperative cultural work of restoration. Without an adjustment to the manner in which the individual approaches the other-than-human inhabitants of one’s ecosystem, the work of restoration is doomed to fail. O’Brien’s “buffalo blues” are a manifestation of this sentiment: without altering cultural perceptions of food, the buffalo “would be considered just another commodity.” He ties this need for cultural restoration to indigenous praxis, as he declares his mission to be “find[ing] a way to treat my buffalo in the respectful way they were treated by the Lakota” (183). This pronouncement, like Collier’s, eschews the simultaneous valorization and mythification of indigeneity that is at the heart of the Ecological Indian trope. Instead, they both call for a reappraisal of Native American knowledge that is not consigned to an idyllic past, but seen as an essential, place-based component of the cultural element so imperative to their respective restoration projects. “Novel Culture”: An Ethical Embrace of Difference By recognizing the need for a cultural component of restoration, Collier and O’Brien envisage their projects as remedying the lack of human–nature connection identified by Allison and Jordan. Their shared focus on indigenous knowledge and practices provides a focused site for a cultural component of ecological restoration that works simultaneously on improving social and ecological relations. These efforts in the cultural realm of restoration constitute an attempt to realize a novel culture, a term I adapt from Allison’s discussion of novel ecosystems. He explains that novel ecosystems arise from “new combinations of species (usually native and non-native to that region) that have not previously existed … [and] have the potential to change local ecosystem structure and function” (43). Extending this scientific term into the social realm, I define a novel culture as new associations of peoples that have no historical analog and thus hold the possibility for an improved relation both across cultural lines and with the other-than-human environment they inhabit. Even a cursory understanding of white-indigenous relations cannot deny the history of violent conflict in the colonization of North America. Unlike the forced segregation of Native American tribes onto isolated reservations, a novel culture would bring together these dissociated societies. Instead of assimilating one set of beliefs and customs into the other, the novel culture would arise from dynamic interactions across these social lines capable of facilitating and improving the human–nature connection through new rituals. As a means of charting a motion toward realizing this goal, Melissa Nelson’s trickster consciousness presents a useful methodology through its celebration of interconnected coexistence. She states that “we need to embrace a type of trickster consciousness to break out of the binary thinking imposed upon us by Eurocentric thinking” (291). Nelson traces the source of ecological degradation to the dichotomous thinking that underlies much of the Western culture. This logic undermines a sense of one’s imbrication within an ecosystem by casting groups in dichotomous relations—nature/culture, indigenous/European. Trickster consciousness can counteract this despondence from the environment through a celebration of mutual interconnectivity across the presumed divisions of that binary logic, “revealing them to be coexisting parts of one greater whole—interconnected and indistinguishable” (292).9 Nelson observes that this work is most productively done by revitalizing traditional cultural arts and learning indigenous languages. These cultural practices “restore the native landscapes, habitats, and ecological relations that support those voices and creative expressions,” thereby “open[ing] up trickster consciousness” (297). For Nelson, there is a reciprocal relation between cultural practice and the environment—the arts and languages of indigenous people both support and are founded upon a specific relation to the natural world, the cultural is inextricable from the ecological. Nelson positions this process as a supplement to ecological restoration that provides an avenue for the “cultural restoration and spiritual renewal” necessary to “reharmonize nature and culture in a modern context” (294–5). Although neither Collier nor O’Brien learn indigenous languages or practice traditional arts, my interest here is in their shared openness to the contributions of native peoples to their respective projects of ecological restoration. In this regard, Nelson’s trickster consciousness can be used as a rubric for assessing their progress toward a novel culture, to show how ecological restorationists “can learn from the native experience, from trickster consciousness, to heal the earth and [them]selves” (297). Collier initiates a movement toward trickster consciousness in a chance encounter with a small Chilcotin band. This meeting occurs as the Colliers brave a winter storm to reach the nearest outpost to restock their medicinal supplies. As they find themselves ill-equipped to handle the weather and in desperate need of assistance, Collier’s wife spots smoke on the horizon, emanating from what they discover is a Chilcotin camp. Here they convene with “Redstone Johnny and his plump, giggling woman, Lizzie. There was old Azak … [and] Eagle Lake Johnny, who derived his name from the large lake a hundred miles to the north, where he was born … Indians from the Riske Creek reservation, all of them” (124). Collier’s knowledge of their names suggests his personal relation with each individual—a recognition that these indigenous peoples do not adhere to a static identity, but are individuals with unique personalities. Collier makes this relationship overt, remarking that “Redstone Johnny had often dropped in at our cabin to share a meal or a cup of tea with us” (124). This representation of Chilcotin off the reservation is attentive to their historic practices in the early- and mid-twentieth century. As John Lutz explains in Makúk, the Chilcotin people only stayed on their reservation “a few occasions a year,” spending most of their time “on their hunting, fishing, or gathering grounds, their range lands or hay meadows, camped in traditional sites on what the government regarded as Crown land” (149). Flouting the laws aimed at forcing them into sedentary, agricultural lives on the reservation, the Chilcotin continued their nomadic hunting practices. These customs constituted a subsistence economy founded upon trapping fur-bearing animals to supplement their meager governmental allotments. Instead of relegating the Chilcotin to an insular life on the reservation, this moment in the text creates a sense of solidarity between the Colliers and the indigenous peoples that cohabitate the Meldrum Creek watershed. While Collier does exemplify a knowledge of the Chilcotin’s cultural specificity and connection to the land, this moment is not unproblematic. Approaching Redstone Johnny’s small band, he describes his surprise at seeing a hunting party out in this weather, because “[n]o white man would ever hunt meat in weather such as we’d had for the last month . … But not the Indians. Living only for the present, they never thought or worried about the future” (124). Although Redstone Johnny’s band saves Collier’s family, he is unable to comprehend a logical rationale for hunting in the present weather conditions. Ignorant to the fact that “[a]s a highly mobile society, the Tsilhqot’in were little inclined to acquire goods that were not small, light, and useful,” Collier envisages the Chilcotin as primitive and unable to effectively forward plan (Lutz 123). This rendering presumes Collier’s role as a paternal force to guide the less logical natives in spite of his reliance upon them for survival, a common trope in the Canadian frontier memoir.10 Elizabeth Furniss observes that “in the public histories that prevail in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region ‘conquest’ was achieved not only through violence but also through benevolence: through Aboriginal peoples’ purported acknowledgment of and childlike submission to the benevolent paternalism and superiority of settlers” (187). While this by no means justifies the offensive image of Redstone Johnny’s band, it does make more sense within the generic practices and expectations within which Collier’s text is firmly entrenched. Afforded the insights of increased cultural sensitivity in the forty years that separate the two texts, Buffalo for the Broken Heart offers an opportunity to redress some of these shortcomings. Like Collier, O’Brien begins this cultural work by depicting indigenous people outside of the reservation context. He describes his neighbor Stan as “a rough ex-miner who was raised on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in south-central South Dakota. … He is a big, round-shouldered man and only the high cheekbones and wry smile give away the fact that he is an enrolled member of the Brule Sioux tribe” (16). By foregrounding his experience mining, O’Brien’s description emphasizes Stan’s life off the reservation as more constitutive of his identity. His work in mining, an extractive industry generally associated with ecological degradation, belies any sense of Stan having an innate ecological knowledge because of his native lineage. O’Brien’s physical illustration also resists an essentializing notion of Stan’s indigeneity, as his tribal heritage is only vaguely perceptible in particular features of his face rather than mystically emanating from his very being. Through these descriptors, O’Brien conveys an indigenous presence near his ranch as historically situated within a context apart from the reservation. This initial portrayal of Stan creates the groundwork for a meaningful, personal connection that clearly progresses from Collier in O’Brien’s ability to resist essentializing, derogatory claims about native peoples. Hearing that Stan’s son had been found dead, O’Brien makes his way to Stan’s house to comfort him and his wife. He recalls that: I did not expect that any of us would eat, but the pie was the best I had ever tasted. The coffee was rich, and before we were finished Stan began to talk. … The story came out in fits and starts. Jesse had gone off the wagon. He’d gotten picked up for his third DWI. Stan’s voice broke and the sobs burst out as if they had their own lives. But the father’s voice forged on. … Stan needed to talk, and to watch him force himself to continue made me lean forward in my chair. I wanted to touch him and finally reached out and did just that. (230–1) The ritual of eating creates the occasion in which a moment of personal connection can take place, an act that resonates with the informing logic of O’Brien’s restoration project. The circumstances of his son’s death exemplify Stan as an indigenous person, not relegated to an anachronistic, reservation-based life, but facing issues that are profoundly contemporary: suicide, alcohol abuse, and legal problems. This moment limns a deeply felt emotional connection between O’Brien and Stan, which is made readily apparent in the emotive minimalism of this passage. The laconic prose points toward the emotional intensity of this moment—an esthetic that avoids a reductive effort to transcribe the evening’s feeling. This emotional, truly human connection that links O’Brien and Stan emphasizes a progression from the necessity-based bond of the Colliers, which is only made more apparent in the lack of denigrating sentiment aimed at indigenous people. These encounters in each text work toward Nelson’s trickster consciousness. They do so by representing indigenous peoples as active, sentient individuals with whom the memoirists feel a connection in spite of cultural and ethnic difference—a relation that does not attempt to transmute difference into the same, but recognizes and appreciates the fact of difference. While not wholly unproblematic, these texts do more closely and ethically engage indigeneity by acknowledging and appreciating historic and geographic specificity. Ecological restoration is at the heart of this insight, because it is directly through their respective restoration projects that Collier and O’Brien come into contact with native peoples and learn about their cultural practices. Ecological restoration thus creates the circumstances wherein Collier and O’Brien can strive for Nelson’s trickster consciousness. Whether isolated on a frozen lake or mourning the loss of a child, these moments have the potential for a liberation from the history of strife and violence that has characterized white-native relations. It is out of these encounters that an incipient novel culture might arise through reconceptualizations of the land and its histories. “A Mosaic of Landscapes”: The Restoration Site as Palimpsest Central to a novel culture and Nelson’s trickster consciousness is the productive, mutually informing coexistence of difference, out of which a new community will arise. This process entails a reconsideration not only of different cultural practices but also the place from which they have arisen. Given the importance of and attention to place in this component of a novel culture, James Barilla’s discussion of ecological restoration texts is pertinent here. Barilla reads Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac (1949), J.M. Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K (1983), and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Gardens in the Dunes (1999) as gradually moving toward a recognition of the power struggles that are inscribed on the land through the restoration process. He concludes by stressing “the need to consider the ecological restoration of landscapes in light of their indigenous cultural history, not just their ecological past[,] … to consider the restoration site as part of a mosaic of landscapes” (138). Barilla’s notion of the restoration site as “a mosaic of landscapes” is a useful model for theorizing a novel culture’s engagement with place. Rather than conceiving of a landscape under the monolithic moniker of “nature,” the mosaic affords the opportunity to reflect on different valuations of the same place. This reconsideration holds the potential for moving toward a new community that is informed by these overlapping definitions of land and envisioned as their sum total. The circumstances through which Collier acquires the land he will restore initially seem to hinder a recognition of the overlaying claims to the site of his restoration project. As he states early in the memoir, Collier “applied for, and was given by the British Columbia Game Department, sole trapping rights over some one hundred fifty thousand acres of wilderness that embraced all of the Meldrum Creek watershed” (17). This extensive claim to the watershed exemplifies an institutional blindness to alternate valuations of the region. Although they had been consigned to reservation life, most Chilcotin still spent a majority of the year in small, nomadic bands hunting and trapping throughout the watershed to augment their sparse provisions. In spite of this historical practice, Collier’s governmental land rights effectively erase indigenous sovereignty and rights to the land—a process that inhibits an understanding of his land as a palimpsest of meanings. However, Collier challenges his own totalizing trapping rights in a confrontation with a small band of Chilcotin. Finding unfamiliar muskrat traps along his trapline, Collier lies in wait for the individuals who are poaching furs from his land. While his government-sanctioned land rights entitle Collier to the traps and their catches, he returns both to the Chilcotin after explaining the nature of his restoration project, its benefits to their tribe, and the necessity of restrained trapping for the project’s success. Collier rationalizes this decision through two key insights. First, he understands that “[p]erhaps they had a plausible excuse for doing so. Theirs was the right to trap and hunt at will long before they were moved onto reservations” (101); second, he believes that “Indians, not only these four, but Indians in general, could cause us a great deal of harm unless we handled this situation right. Not bodily harm … [b]ut harm to the fur-bearers we were trying so hard to conserve” (107). Although his portrayals of the Chilcotin in this meeting are infantilizing, Collier’s acumen here elucidates his growing sense of the land as a mosaic. He not only understands his trapline in relation to the historical practices of the Chilcotin, but also contemplates his project as necessarily entailing an active collaboration with the native peoples that inhabit the Meldrum Creek watershed. This moment draws attention to Collier’s efforts at negotiating the conflicting and, at times, problematic conditions of his restoration project. While the confrontation over poaching furs is surprising, Collier’s decision is not entirely unfounded. Early in Three against the Wilderness, Collier records Lala’s history of Meldrum Creek—a history that is attentive primarily to the presence and motion of different animal species and weather patterns. The location of this history so near the opening of the narrative instills it with implicit value. Like his respect for Lala’s diagnosis of the ecosystem, Collier foregrounds his restoration work with the indigenous perspective. This influence is further evinced in his mirroring of this historical narrative’s emphasis on fauna and weather, as he too details the movements of species through the watershed and their relation to seasonal and yearly weather patterns. Collier’s effort to employ that perspective again points to the cultural element of the restoration project. He recognizes a need to rethink the land within the framework provided by Lala to assess accurately and to understand more fully the impact of restoring the beaver population. Collier supplements Lala’s narrative later in the memoir by charting the historical claims to the watershed’s resources. Following the extinction of the beaver population due to overhunting, the waters of Meldrum Creek were diverted in the late-1850s to support mining camps and to irrigate livestock. In its linear presentation, Collier makes clear that the decimated ecosystem he first encounters resulted from the cumulative effects of these extractive industries. Importantly, this second history is not an effort to subordinate Lala’s account. Instead, Collier presents her history as more commendable and valuable, since his project actively works against the extractive history of settlement—he is supplying the watershed with resources rather than taking from it. However, Collier does not ignore conceptions of the land with which he disagrees. Instead, he puts them into conversation with Lala through their mutual inclusion, thereby exemplifying an understanding of the landscape as mosaic.11 O’Brien similarly charts overlapping histories of his place in the formal construction of his text. While it would make sense to track the restoration of his buffalo herd chronologically, O’Brien opts for a narrative trajectory that resists that linear temporality in favor of thematically organized chapters. An excellent example of this structure can be seen in chapters five through seven. These chapters present the reader with a layered history of O’Brien’s Broken Heart Ranch that chronicles his predecessors’ failed agricultural ventures, traces the socioeconomic factors that led to the mass hunting of buffalo, and details the farming practices that caused the widespread loss of topsoil and native plants. Spread across three chapters, the processes that created the circumstances O’Brien finds upon purchasing the land can be understood as disparate. They are distinct but, taken together, comprise the deep-seated social and economic struggles of Midwestern farmers and ranchers. This narrative strategy presents a sophisticated awareness of the Great Plains as a site of a multifarious history—a depiction of the land that highlights the issues inherent to ecological restoration and justifies the importance of this work. While both authors convey a nuanced understanding of the places they inhabit and work, there are glaring omissions in their histories. Collier and O’Brien both emphasize a strict contrast between a resource-based conception of land and the ecological consciousness they strive for in their projects. However, they fail to include significant moments in indigenous history that center upon a resistance to that extractive view of their lands. Throughout Three against the Wilderness, Collier makes no mention of the Chilcotin War—a conflict in 1864 during which small, mobile Chilcotin bands drove road surveyors out of their territory.12 That expanding mining interests motivated the surveyors speaks directly to one layer of history that Collier includes in his discussion of the watershed. His exclusion of the war belittles the Chilcotin’s historical experience. O’Brien’s text offers a progression from Collier in this regard, but is still not without complications. At numerous points in the text, O’Brien makes direct reference to historical Sioux figures, including Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, and Sitting Bull, but these are generally couched within another history. This trend notably occurs in his discussion of the buffalo’s history on the Great Plains, wherein O’Brien relates Custer’s expedition into the Black Hills—an event that would ultimately precipitate the acceleration of the Plains Wars. This moment in the text signals an awareness of the Northern Plains as a contested space, but it defers any serious engagement with that history. This omission is noteworthy given the instrumental roles Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, and Sitting Bull played in the Plains Wars.13 Eschewing any mention of these large sociopolitical events in the history of the lands they inhabit, Collier and O’Brien falter somewhat in their efforts to convey a sense of overlapping cultural claims and meanings on the land being restored. “The Invention of Rituals and Stories”: The Emergence of Novel Cultures In spite of these stumbles, the cultural work of Collier and O’Brien comes to fruition in the nascent rituals of a novel culture. As I have suggested, Jordan’s model of ecological restoration hinges upon the restorationists’ growing sense of connection to the landscape they are in the process of restoring. For Jordan, the creation of new rituals facilitates this process, because they provide “the means by which a society manages discordant and divisive elements, both within the individual and among individuals, in order to achieve a measure of harmony” (35). He further explains that ecological restoration is an especially apt “context for the invention of the rituals and stories needed to move toward the formation of a mature relationship” because, “by demanding both that we manipulate [nature] and that we maintain total respect for it, it draws us into the middle ground that lies between these two alienated alternatives” (75). Rituals, as discussed by Jordan, serve as the primary means of realizing what I have defined as a novel culture. These burgeoning rites are the culmination of trickster consciousness and the mosaic landscape, because they are a means through which different cultures can meaningfully interact to more fully understand their place and their shared role within it. In tying this concept of ritual directly to his model of ecological restoration, Jordan elucidates the cultural work of restoration as the creation of communal meaning and value through the formation of rituals. Collier’s closing sentiment on the chance encounter with Redstone Johnny’s band is emblematic of such a rite. Recalling the experience, he reflects that the “Christmas season spent on Island Lake Flats in a sleigh at forty degrees below zero, partaking of the open hospitality of Redstone Johnny and his plump woman Lizzie—roast moose and a roaring fire—stands out as one of the best of all” (128). The sharing of a holiday meal and the comforts of the camp speaks to the Colliers’ feeling of coexistence and interrelation with the Chilcotin. This ritual embodies a similar sense of cultural hybridity in the celebration of a Christian holiday with a meal more aligned with Chilcotin practice in its outdoor, small camp setting. Significantly, Collier hires a Chilcotin man, Moleese, immediately after this communion with Redstone Johnny’s band. This act brings their cross-cultural interaction into an extended context, as they work together repairing dams for an entire season. This employment of Moleese effectively signals Collier’s understanding that his larger project relies upon the ability to see across social binaries, which Nelson posits as the key element of trickster consciousness. By working to cultivate an understanding of place and its human and other-than-human inhabitants that is sensitive to others’ needs, Collier comprehends the basis for the realization of a novel culture through this celebration of difference constitutive of a larger bioregional community. O’Brien builds upon this effort in his striving to enact a new, hybrid ritual in the buffalo hunt. Before presenting it, O’Brien justifies his inclusion of the hunt. Because of the “[s]ocietal pressure to ignore and deny our natural place in the food chain,” O’Brien questions this choice, noting that he “was sobered at the thought of walking out into my pasture and shooting five of the buffalo that I had cared for over the past two years. It occurred to me that I could … opt out of my responsibility to see that my animals died a proper death” (244). This meta-textual moment within the narrative makes clear O’Brien’s felt need to include the hunt because of its centrality to his project as a whole. It also marks an evolution from Collier’s necessity-based Christmas ritual and hiring of Moleese, because O’Brien engages in a hybrid ritual after extensive meditation on the philosophical underpinnings of such an act. Although the hunt seems paradoxical given the memoir’s chronicling of the personal and financial struggles undertaken to establish the herd, there is also the sense that O’Brien must take an active part in the respectful hunting of the buffalo.14 This is the cultural work of his project: to acquire a deeper appreciation for the Great Plains ecosystem he inhabits in a manner that embraces his position within the dynamic processes of that ecosystem. This insight is realized in the actual hunt, as O’Brien begins the first instantiation of a new ritual, the clearest embodiment in these two texts of a burgeoning novel culture. Prior to setting out with Stan and Erney, O’Brien recalls that “[w]ith apology in my voice, I said to Stan, ‘Remember that story you told me about the old full bloods burning sweetgrass over the cattle your dad traded for wood?’ Stan nodded over his coffee cup. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I bought a braid of sweetgrass, and I was wondering what you’d think of waving a little over these buffs once they’re dead’” (247–8). O’Brien’s expressed desire here to denote the occasion of the buffalo hunt as a sacred event is exemplary of the incipient, ritualized practice of a novel culture. The hybridity of this ritual is the key component—O’Brien, Stan, and Erney will use modern technology to ensure the safe hunting of the buffalo for an economic market while also not alienating themselves from the process of death inherent to the healthy function of an ecosystem. O’Brien’s hesitance and awkwardness in asking Stan are also important to keep in mind, as he is not seeking to appropriate the culture for his own ends without a knowledge of the specificity and purposes behind such a ritual. It is his knowledge of Sioux culture, acquired both through his research and his relationship with Stan, which makes the new ritual so important to O’Brien and causes him to be cognizant of the potential to offend. O’Brien’s aspiration for a hybrid ritual in the buffalo hunt marks a symbolic effort to synthesize the cultures of Plains tribes and his own—a moment that is symptomatic of an emergent cultural praxis burgeoning alongside the ecosystem’s restoration. While these inchoate rituals point toward the potential realization of a novel culture through ecological restoration, the continued success of this ecological and cultural restorative work depends upon the economic sustainability of these projects. Given the wide array of stakeholders who may not immediately perceive its worth, Allison stresses that “economic values are increasingly important when presenting the benefits of ecological restoration to the general public and regulatory agencies” (74). Although perhaps not the immediate or initial purpose for undergoing such work, economic legibility, as Allison contends, is imperative for the continuation of ecological restoration projects in perpetuity. Significantly, both Collier and O’Brien present economically sustainable projects. Although recalling it as an “outlandish means of earning a livelihood,” Collier and his family subsist on hunting moose, deer, ducks, and geese and trading muskrat and coyote pelts (87). As their restoration of the watershed develops, fur trading becomes increasingly profitable with the improved ecosystem attracting mink, lynx, beaver, and fox, all of whose furs were vastly more profitable than coyotes or muskrat. Collier comments on this drastic improvement at the end of Three against the Wilderness, recalling that in the “spring of 1956 our trapline and two nearby had yielded some four hundred beaver pelts. That seemed like an awful pile of beavers to trap when only some fifteen years ago there was scarcely a living beaver to be found throughout all the Chilcotin” (314). Concluding on this point, Collier makes no attempt to imagine the future of his project—perhaps because his ongoing struggles with emphysema would force him to move just one year after his memoir was published. However, after relocating to Riske Creek, Collier was able to privately sell his trapline, further exemplifying the increased profitability of the land as a direct result of his restoration work. O’Brien similarly concludes his memoir with a recognition of his success. After his second buffalo hunt, O’Brien reflects in the epilog that “I don’t sit at my desk and worry like I used to do. The land payments have been made for another year … Sam, Denise, and I formed the Wild Idea Buffalo Company. The sixteen young bulls I just killed are the product of that endeavor” (254). Unlike the financial uncertainty that characterizes much of the narrative, O’Brien concludes here on a note of present stability and cautious optimism for the future upon the foundation of the Wild Idea Buffalo Company. His hope here was not misplaced, as Wild Idea Buffalo Company has grown immensely in the nearly twenty years since its inception in 1997. The company’s website explains that “[f]rom a 1, 000-acre beginning we are now positively impacting over 150, 000 acres of prairie grassland, and that number is growing.” This ecological success has coincided with their financial growth—a 2012 CNN article identified that year as the first time the company made one million dollars in yearly revenue (“Buffalo Meat Makes a Million”). Although both memoirists offer fundamentally different models of sustainable restoration projects, they are each successful economically as well as ecologically. Either at the individual level, as with Collier, or in the establishment of a nation-wide business, like O’Brien, these two memoirs highlight the sustainability of cultural and ecological restoration, thereby making a compelling case for this brand of restoration as a vital intervention in environmentalist action for the twenty-first century. Importantly, this economic viability does not sidetrack either Collier’s or O’Brien’s efforts to join with indigenous cultures in the service of a shared future. It is these efforts that are indicative of the cultural process of restoration, the imperative to restore the human–human connection alongside the human–nature relationship that Stuart Allison asserts as vital to ensuring the lasting success of restorative work. As with the fieldwork necessary to restoration, there is a good deal of work still to be done in the humanities. Allison’s renewed restoration cannot happen without the cultural engagement that is provided by literature and the study of it. Humanities scholars must be a part of this new restoration paradigm for a more sustainable future engagement between nature and culture to be realized. Footnotes 1 This call for a cultural component of ecological restoration may be found in Allison (169–96), Jordan (“Restoration: Shaping the Land, Transforming the Human Spirit” and The Sunflower Forest), Higgs (341–43), and Cairns (6–7, 9, 30). 2 Krech defines this trope as an image of “the Indian in nature who understands the systemic consequences of his actions, feels deep sympathy with all living forms, and takes steps to conserve so that earth’s harmonies are never imbalanced and resources never in doubt” (21). Krech excavates historically and geographically situated practices not to lambast indigenous peoples, but to identify their role in shaping the environment. 3 While bison is the correct nomenclature, I defer to O’Brien’s choice of using “buffalo” throughout this article. 4 For his discussion of the Ecological Indian trope in relation to buffalo hunting and beaver trapping, see Krech (127–38, 175–95, respectively). 5 There is a general lack of critical work on this cultural component of ecological restoration outside of the sciences. Bowman-Broz, Barilla, Norden, and Wohlpart have conducted the few relevant studies in the humanities. However, these authors focus primarily on the content of the text without fully placing their readings into conversation with the scientific discourse surrounding ecological restoration. 6 For further explanation of the problems in defining and establishing a rubric for assessing the success of ecological restoration, see Higgs (340–5) and Allison (4–13). 7 Schroeder’s “The Restoration Experience” and Grese et al.’s “Psychological Benefits of Volunteering in Stewardship Programs” are quantitative studies of restoration project volunteers’ experiences that corroborate Jordan’s assertion here. 8 While the tribe self-identifies as “Tsilhqot’in,” I follow Collier’s use of “Chilcotin” throughout this article. 9 Nelson’s model of trickster consciousness draws heavily upon Gerald Vizenor’s “Trickster Discourse,” which focuses on how an impetus for social change can inhere within trickster narratives. According to Vizenor, a trickster narrative places the onus upon the reader to imagine a means of creating “a communal being” (286). While sharing the goal of an ethical coexistence with and celebration of difference, Nelson and Vizenor diverge in their emphasis on realizing this way of being in cultural practice and narrative, respectively. 10 This sentiment is echoed in “Redstone Johnny,” an autobiographical short story by Collier that was published in Outdoor Life two years prior to Three against the Wilderness. The story is a brief sketch of Collier’s enduring relationship with Redstone Johnny, who teaches him to hunt. At the conclusion of the story, Collier laments Redstone Johnny’s death, describing him as “one of the whitest men I’ve known in the 30-odd years I have lived in the wilds of British Columbia” (84). In spite of the narrative of the story, which posits the superiority of indigenous knowledge, Collier remains incapable of fully recognizing the role Redstone Johnny and other Chilcotin played in his family’s ultimate survival. 11 In his introduction to The Canadian Imagination, David Staines argues that, unlike America’s claim for a unified national identity in spite of clear regional distinctions, “[t]he Canadian preference for a mosaic structure in which all the ethnic and social regions retain their distinctness is central to an understanding of the nation” (3). Collier’s ability to comprehend his land claim as a site of converging cultural significations may thus arise more from his national specificity than from his own insight. 12 For further discussion of the Chilcotin War, see Lutz (131–42), Furniss (64), and Turkel (177–224). 13 In-depth analyses of Custer’s 1874 expedition into the Black Hills in search of gold and its influence over the outbreak of the Plains Wars may be found in Brown (276–90) and Yenne (175–80). 14 In The Sunflower Forest, Jordan explains that for environmentalism to be a successful grounds for realizing an ethical relation with the places one inhabits, it must deal with the most troubling elements of that relationship. According to Jordan, hunting has this potential because it confronts the necessary role death plays in the perpetuation of life within an ecosystem (44–47). As with O’Brien, Jordan identifies a dissociation from this insight as distancing the individual from their lived environment. Works Cited Allison Stuart K. Ecological Restoration and Environmental Change: Renewing Damaged Ecosystems . Routledge , 2012 . Barilla James. “A Mosaic of Landscapes: Ecological Restoration and the Work of Leopold, Coetzee, and Silko.” Coming into Contact: Explorations in Ecocritical Theory and Practice . Ed. Ingram Annie Merrill et al. U Georgia P , 2007 . 128 – 40 . Bowman-Broz Norah. “‘To Become Beavers of Sorts’: Eric Collier’s Memoir of Creative Ecology at Meldrum Creek.” The Bioregional Imagination: Literature, Ecology, and Place . Ed. Lynch Tom et al. U Georgia P , 2012 . 72 – 85 . Brown Dee. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West . Picador , 2007 . Cairns John Jr . “Ecosocietal Restoration: Reestablishing Humanity’s Relationship with Natural Systems.” Environment 37 , no. 5 ( 1995) : 4 – 33 . Google Scholar PubMed Collier Eric. “Redstone Johnny.” Outdoor Life ( 1957) : 32–33 and 84–87. Collier Eric . Three against the Wilderness . Touchwood Editions , 2007 . Furniss Elizabeth. The Burden of History: Colonialism and the Frontier Myth in a Rural Canadian Community . U British Columbia P , 1999 . Grese Robert E. , Kaplan Rachel , Ryan Robert L. , Buxton Jane . “Psychological Benefits of Volunteering in Stewardship Programs.” Restoring Nature: Perspectives from the Social Sciences and Humanities . Eds. Gobster Paul H. , Bruce Hull R . Island P , 2000 . 265 – 80 . Hansen Kristine. “Buffalo Meat Makes a Million.” CNN Money . CNN, 13 Mar. 2012 . Accessed 6 Jan. 2016. Higgs Eric S. “What is Good Ecological Restoration?” Conservation Biology 11, no. 2 ( 1997 ): 338 – 48 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Jordan William R. III . “Restoration: Shaping the Land, Transforming the Human Spirit.” Helping Nature Heal: An Introduction to Environmental Restoration . Ed. Nilsen Richard . Ten Speed P , 1991 . 4 – 5 . Jordan William R . The Sunflower Forest: Ecological Restoration and the New Communion with Nature . U California P , 2003 . Krech Shepard III . The Ecological Indian: Myth and History . Norton , 1999 . Lutz John Sutton. Makúk: A New History of Aboriginal-White Relations . U British Columbia P , 2008 . Nelson Melissa K. “Mending the Split-Head Society with Trickster Consciousness.” Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future . Ed. Nelson Melissa K . Bear & Co ., 2008 . 288 – 97 . Norden Christopher. “Ecological Restoration as Post-Colonial Ritual of Community in Three Native American Novels.” Studies in American Indian Literatures: The Journal of the Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures 6 , no. 4 ( 1994) : 94 – 106 . O’Brien Dan. Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch . Random House , 2001 . Schroeder Herbert W. “The Restoration Experience: Volunteers’ Motives, Values, and Concepts of Nature.” Restoring Nature: Perspectives from the Social Sciences and Humanities . Eds. Gobster Paul H. , Bruce Hull R . Island P , 2000 . 247 – 64 . Society for Ecological Restoration International Science & Policy Group . “The SER International Primer on Ecological Restoration.” Society for Ecological Restoration, 2 Oct. 2004 . Accessed 9 Apr. 2014. Staines David. “Introduction: Canada Observed.” The Canadian Imagination: Dimensions of a Literary Culture . Ed. David Staines. Harvard UP , 1977 . 1 – 21 . Turkel William J. The Archive of Place: Unearthing the Pasts of the Chilcotin Plateau . U British Columbia P , 2007 . Vizenor Gerald. “ Trickster Discourse.” American Indian Quarterly 14 , no. 3 ( 1990) : 277 – 87 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Wild Idea Buffalo Company . “Mission.” Wild Idea Buffalo Company. Accessed 6 Jan. 2016 . Wohlpart A. James. Walking in the Land of Many Gods: Remembering Sacred Reason in Contemporary Environmental Literature . U Georgia P , 2013 . Yenne Bill. Indian Wars: The Campaign for the American West . Westholme , 2005 . © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment Oxford University Press

The Cultural Work of Ecological Restoration: Reading the Role of Indigeneity in Three against the Wilderness and Buffalo for the Broken Heart

Loading next page...
 
/lp/ou_press/the-cultural-work-of-ecological-restoration-reading-the-role-of-pkcnhrHd0s
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
1076-0962
eISSN
1759-1090
D.O.I.
10.1093/isle/isy002
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Ecological restoration strives to create the material circumstances for an increase in the biodiversity of an ecosystem. Restoration projects are generally ongoing, active engagements with an ecosystem aimed at restarting and facilitating the dynamic processes of evolution. To complement the scientific nature of restoration, prominent contributors to the field have expressed a keen interest in a cultural component of this work.1 Recognizing that the roots of ecological degradation extend well beyond the scientific realm, restoration ecologists posit the need for an ontological shift to ensure the success of restoration projects in perpetuity. This call for new cultural knowledge and practices has a long history in American environmental discourse, especially in looking to Native Americans as models; however, it has often been carried out problematically, resulting in what environmental anthropologist Shepard Krech calls the Ecological Indian trope.2 By decontextualizing indigenous customs, this trope “occludes its actual connection to the behavior it purports to explain” (Krech 27). As a result, the environmental lessons garnered from Native American cultures become separated from the geographic specificities out of which they arose and within which they are most productively implemented. Further, the trope renders indigenous cultures obsolescent by confining them to an antiquated past that has few corollaries to the present moment. In this article, I examine how two memoirs of restoration projects work toward an ecologically-oriented ontology through a more ethical engagement with native cultures: Eric Collier’s Three against the Wilderness (1959) and Dan O’Brien’s Buffalo for the Broken Heart (2001). The former is a Canadian memoir chronicling the Collier family’s efforts to restore the beaver population in British Columbia’s Meldrum Creek watershed; the latter, an American memoir, relates O’Brien’s experiences converting a South Dakota ranch from raising cattle to buffalo.3 The pairing of these two works, in spite of their considerable spatial and temporal separation, yields insights into the cultural work of ecological restoration as a progressive, place-based endeavor. Given their active engagements with indigenous peoples and establishment of economically sustainable restoration projects, these texts represent useful models for my discussion. Collier and O’Brien aim to create an ecologically-minded approach to extractive practices that have historically been detrimental to local ecosystems—fur-trapping and ranching, respectively.4 Through their awareness of native peoples’ historic imbrication within these industries, they understand indigenous knowledge and cultural practice as historically situated and geographically contingent. Unlike the Ecological Indian trope that consigns native peoples to an anachronistic existence, Collier and O’Brien present moments of ethical encounter with indigenous peoples. In so doing, they elucidate the inextricability of the cultural work from their larger projects of ecological restoration. In this examination of Three against the Wilderness and Buffalo for the Broken Heart, I explore how texts depicting ecological restoration projects can contribute to the cultural work of restoration. I begin with an outline of ecological restoration discourse that is grounded in Stuart Allison’s notion of “renewed restoration.” This discussion elucidates the key issues of a paradigm that has received little critical attention in the humanities.5 Out of this consideration of Allison’s model, I define a “novel culture” as a goal for the cultural work of restoration. A novel culture is composed of an unprecedented arrangement of social groups that has the potential to improve relations across social lines and with the environment. Finally, I examine how Collier’s and O’Brien’s memoirs strive toward a novel culture through their relations with native peoples. My reading draws upon Nelson’s “trickster consciousness,” Barilla’s model of the restoration site as a mosaic, and Jordan’s emphasis upon establishing new rituals as rubrics for gauging Collier’s and O’Brien’s efforts at realizing a novel culture. Ultimately, I contend that, by subverting the denigrating image of the Ecological Indian, these memoirs of ecological restoration projects provide an opportunity to redress this contentious relationship by offering an alternative that is sensitive to Native American cultures. By recognizing the need for renewed cultural connections and the collaborative presence of indigenous peoples throughout their memoirs, Collier and O’Brien proffer a new relation to native peoples as part of their projects, which emerges in the initial signs of a novel culture. “Renewed Restoration”: The Cultural Imperative Ecological restoration rose to institutional prominence in the 1980s, with the establishment of the journal Ecological Restoration in 1981 and the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) in 1988. While the management of landscapes and natural resources was by no means a new idea at the time, the journal and academic association gave ecologists, conservation biologists, and volunteers new forums to discuss the myriad issues arising from the praxis of restoration. To give shape and direction to an amorphous field of academics and practitioners, SER defined ecological restoration as “the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed” (3). It is important to note the purposeful ambiguity employed here. Because of the extent of ecological degradation in the twenty-first century, this definition makes no indication of specific areas for focus or a guide by which to implement restorative work. This lack of prescriptive measures suggests that there has been little consensus on the models and methods of ecological restoration. However, key figures in the field agree that the primary goal is to increase biodiversity, which would promote the dynamic evolutionary processes that are the hallmark of a healthy ecosystem. In spite of this shared target, disagreement arises within the field on how best to increase biodiversity. While one movement posits historical fidelity to a pre-disturbance ecosystem as its primary goal, a countermovement concedes the incontrovertible effects of climate change and the irreversible presence of invasive species. The latter group of restorationists emphasizes the need to embrace the realities of the present moment and to conceptualize projects that are future-oriented rather than retrospective.6 Stuart Allison enters this debate in Ecological Restoration and Environmental Change (2012), interposing a new model of renewed restoration and steering the discourse toward a consideration of culture. He defines renewed restoration as: ecological restoration that is restoration along the middle path: restoration projects that recognize the importance of the past pre-disturbance ecosystems by maintaining as much historical fidelity as possible, while utilizing the reality of rapidly changing, no-analogue, hybrid and novel ecosystems in order to promote biodiversity, ecosystem services and human connection to the environment. (120) This clear intervention into the discussion of ecological restoration’s methods forges a compromise between the two positions. Allison includes the promotion of a human–nature connection as an essential element of his model, moving restoration outside the sole realm of scientific praxis and into broader cultural considerations. The use of the phrase “middle path” is significant here. While Allison refers overtly to the need to strike a balance between wholly favoring either historical fidelity or hybrid and novel ecosystems, he also addresses the need to do the same between scientific and cultural work. Allison’s renewed restoration posits a cultural component as an imperative supplement to the ecological fieldwork of restoration. William Jordan, III extends this cultural shift by emphasizing the importance of personal experience and narrative to the restoration process. In “Restoration: Shaping the Land, Transforming the Human Spirit,” he argues that confining restoration solely to the realm of ecology “simply ignores what may be restoration’s greatest benefit—its value to the restorationist as a process, a way of learning about the system being restored, and finally a way of establishing an intimate, mutually beneficial relationship with it” (4–5). Jordan’s definition of the restorationist avoids an alignment with science. His ideal practitioner is actually not from a scientific background at all, but would learn ecology through the process of restoration.7 The desired outcome is not the achievement of encyclopedic, scientific understanding, but is rather a personal connection to the landscape’s ecosystem. This model of restoration underscores the inseparability of the cultural work from the ecological. Because of its ability to represent relationships meaningfully and to proliferate those expressions, storytelling serves a vital role in this cultural component of restoration. Jordan’s critical move creates a space for humanities scholars, who are uniquely positioned to examine the role of cultural production in either supporting or counteracting this meaningful relation to the place(s) in which one dwells. This acknowledgement of the need for a cultural change finds a salient depiction in Three against the Wilderness and Buffalo for the Broken Heart, both of which enact this cultural shift through an embrace of indigenous knowledge. Discussing the state of the Meldrum Creek watershed, Collier concedes that “no one had vision enough to couple this calamity with a complete decimation of the beavers that had taken place upon so many of the watersheds, except perhaps Lala, and a few other oldsters of her race. But no one sought the advice of any Indian upon such matters” (17). Collier acknowledges that a new mode of approaching and conceptualizing the watershed’s ecosystem is imperative to his project. He conveys this most clearly in his direct statement that the indigenous peoples are the only group with any probing insight into the decay of the watershed’s ecosystem. Collier furthers this appeal by positing that the Chilcotin not only have an understanding of the land that far exceeds that of the colonizers but also, as living members of the ecosystem, should be heard and valued in the future planning of the land.8 He enacts this shift in cognition by stressing Lala’s role in motivating the project, recalling that she “was to tell me of Meldrum Creek as it was before ever a white man laid eyes upon the watershed, and urge me to go to the creek with Lillian and give it back its beavers” (7). Collier validates Lala’s input by actively differentiating his understanding from her place-based knowledge, which provides the impetus for his attempt to restore the beaver population. Contrary to the “racist atmosphere” of early twentieth-century British Columbia, Bowman-Broz argues that “Collier welcomes Lala’s knowledge as contemporaneous and creative, rather than (as indigenous knowledge in 2011 is still often framed) as antiquated, useless, or vanishing” (76). Looking beyond certain prejudices of his time, Collier reconsiders the natural world within the context of historically situated interactions with indigenous people. For his part, O’Brien similarly recognizes the need for revising cultural conceptions of nature that engage native peoples as a source of insight. Ruminating on the similarities between the cattle and buffalo industries, O’Brien identifies “the heart of [his] buffalo blues. Even if buffalo someday returned, the same forces that brought them to near extinction would refuse to treat them like the Great Plains Eucharist that they are. There was great danger that they would be considered just another commodity” (183–4). In this experience at a buffalo auction, there is no discernible distinction between the treatment of buffalo and that of cattle. This phenomenon is immensely troubling to O’Brien, because it is an understanding of that basic difference that informs his entire restoration project. He believes buffalo are a sacred element of his ranch’s native ecosystem, a “Great Plains Eucharist.” The disparity he perceives here highlights the imperative cultural work of restoration. Without an adjustment to the manner in which the individual approaches the other-than-human inhabitants of one’s ecosystem, the work of restoration is doomed to fail. O’Brien’s “buffalo blues” are a manifestation of this sentiment: without altering cultural perceptions of food, the buffalo “would be considered just another commodity.” He ties this need for cultural restoration to indigenous praxis, as he declares his mission to be “find[ing] a way to treat my buffalo in the respectful way they were treated by the Lakota” (183). This pronouncement, like Collier’s, eschews the simultaneous valorization and mythification of indigeneity that is at the heart of the Ecological Indian trope. Instead, they both call for a reappraisal of Native American knowledge that is not consigned to an idyllic past, but seen as an essential, place-based component of the cultural element so imperative to their respective restoration projects. “Novel Culture”: An Ethical Embrace of Difference By recognizing the need for a cultural component of restoration, Collier and O’Brien envisage their projects as remedying the lack of human–nature connection identified by Allison and Jordan. Their shared focus on indigenous knowledge and practices provides a focused site for a cultural component of ecological restoration that works simultaneously on improving social and ecological relations. These efforts in the cultural realm of restoration constitute an attempt to realize a novel culture, a term I adapt from Allison’s discussion of novel ecosystems. He explains that novel ecosystems arise from “new combinations of species (usually native and non-native to that region) that have not previously existed … [and] have the potential to change local ecosystem structure and function” (43). Extending this scientific term into the social realm, I define a novel culture as new associations of peoples that have no historical analog and thus hold the possibility for an improved relation both across cultural lines and with the other-than-human environment they inhabit. Even a cursory understanding of white-indigenous relations cannot deny the history of violent conflict in the colonization of North America. Unlike the forced segregation of Native American tribes onto isolated reservations, a novel culture would bring together these dissociated societies. Instead of assimilating one set of beliefs and customs into the other, the novel culture would arise from dynamic interactions across these social lines capable of facilitating and improving the human–nature connection through new rituals. As a means of charting a motion toward realizing this goal, Melissa Nelson’s trickster consciousness presents a useful methodology through its celebration of interconnected coexistence. She states that “we need to embrace a type of trickster consciousness to break out of the binary thinking imposed upon us by Eurocentric thinking” (291). Nelson traces the source of ecological degradation to the dichotomous thinking that underlies much of the Western culture. This logic undermines a sense of one’s imbrication within an ecosystem by casting groups in dichotomous relations—nature/culture, indigenous/European. Trickster consciousness can counteract this despondence from the environment through a celebration of mutual interconnectivity across the presumed divisions of that binary logic, “revealing them to be coexisting parts of one greater whole—interconnected and indistinguishable” (292).9 Nelson observes that this work is most productively done by revitalizing traditional cultural arts and learning indigenous languages. These cultural practices “restore the native landscapes, habitats, and ecological relations that support those voices and creative expressions,” thereby “open[ing] up trickster consciousness” (297). For Nelson, there is a reciprocal relation between cultural practice and the environment—the arts and languages of indigenous people both support and are founded upon a specific relation to the natural world, the cultural is inextricable from the ecological. Nelson positions this process as a supplement to ecological restoration that provides an avenue for the “cultural restoration and spiritual renewal” necessary to “reharmonize nature and culture in a modern context” (294–5). Although neither Collier nor O’Brien learn indigenous languages or practice traditional arts, my interest here is in their shared openness to the contributions of native peoples to their respective projects of ecological restoration. In this regard, Nelson’s trickster consciousness can be used as a rubric for assessing their progress toward a novel culture, to show how ecological restorationists “can learn from the native experience, from trickster consciousness, to heal the earth and [them]selves” (297). Collier initiates a movement toward trickster consciousness in a chance encounter with a small Chilcotin band. This meeting occurs as the Colliers brave a winter storm to reach the nearest outpost to restock their medicinal supplies. As they find themselves ill-equipped to handle the weather and in desperate need of assistance, Collier’s wife spots smoke on the horizon, emanating from what they discover is a Chilcotin camp. Here they convene with “Redstone Johnny and his plump, giggling woman, Lizzie. There was old Azak … [and] Eagle Lake Johnny, who derived his name from the large lake a hundred miles to the north, where he was born … Indians from the Riske Creek reservation, all of them” (124). Collier’s knowledge of their names suggests his personal relation with each individual—a recognition that these indigenous peoples do not adhere to a static identity, but are individuals with unique personalities. Collier makes this relationship overt, remarking that “Redstone Johnny had often dropped in at our cabin to share a meal or a cup of tea with us” (124). This representation of Chilcotin off the reservation is attentive to their historic practices in the early- and mid-twentieth century. As John Lutz explains in Makúk, the Chilcotin people only stayed on their reservation “a few occasions a year,” spending most of their time “on their hunting, fishing, or gathering grounds, their range lands or hay meadows, camped in traditional sites on what the government regarded as Crown land” (149). Flouting the laws aimed at forcing them into sedentary, agricultural lives on the reservation, the Chilcotin continued their nomadic hunting practices. These customs constituted a subsistence economy founded upon trapping fur-bearing animals to supplement their meager governmental allotments. Instead of relegating the Chilcotin to an insular life on the reservation, this moment in the text creates a sense of solidarity between the Colliers and the indigenous peoples that cohabitate the Meldrum Creek watershed. While Collier does exemplify a knowledge of the Chilcotin’s cultural specificity and connection to the land, this moment is not unproblematic. Approaching Redstone Johnny’s small band, he describes his surprise at seeing a hunting party out in this weather, because “[n]o white man would ever hunt meat in weather such as we’d had for the last month . … But not the Indians. Living only for the present, they never thought or worried about the future” (124). Although Redstone Johnny’s band saves Collier’s family, he is unable to comprehend a logical rationale for hunting in the present weather conditions. Ignorant to the fact that “[a]s a highly mobile society, the Tsilhqot’in were little inclined to acquire goods that were not small, light, and useful,” Collier envisages the Chilcotin as primitive and unable to effectively forward plan (Lutz 123). This rendering presumes Collier’s role as a paternal force to guide the less logical natives in spite of his reliance upon them for survival, a common trope in the Canadian frontier memoir.10 Elizabeth Furniss observes that “in the public histories that prevail in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region ‘conquest’ was achieved not only through violence but also through benevolence: through Aboriginal peoples’ purported acknowledgment of and childlike submission to the benevolent paternalism and superiority of settlers” (187). While this by no means justifies the offensive image of Redstone Johnny’s band, it does make more sense within the generic practices and expectations within which Collier’s text is firmly entrenched. Afforded the insights of increased cultural sensitivity in the forty years that separate the two texts, Buffalo for the Broken Heart offers an opportunity to redress some of these shortcomings. Like Collier, O’Brien begins this cultural work by depicting indigenous people outside of the reservation context. He describes his neighbor Stan as “a rough ex-miner who was raised on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in south-central South Dakota. … He is a big, round-shouldered man and only the high cheekbones and wry smile give away the fact that he is an enrolled member of the Brule Sioux tribe” (16). By foregrounding his experience mining, O’Brien’s description emphasizes Stan’s life off the reservation as more constitutive of his identity. His work in mining, an extractive industry generally associated with ecological degradation, belies any sense of Stan having an innate ecological knowledge because of his native lineage. O’Brien’s physical illustration also resists an essentializing notion of Stan’s indigeneity, as his tribal heritage is only vaguely perceptible in particular features of his face rather than mystically emanating from his very being. Through these descriptors, O’Brien conveys an indigenous presence near his ranch as historically situated within a context apart from the reservation. This initial portrayal of Stan creates the groundwork for a meaningful, personal connection that clearly progresses from Collier in O’Brien’s ability to resist essentializing, derogatory claims about native peoples. Hearing that Stan’s son had been found dead, O’Brien makes his way to Stan’s house to comfort him and his wife. He recalls that: I did not expect that any of us would eat, but the pie was the best I had ever tasted. The coffee was rich, and before we were finished Stan began to talk. … The story came out in fits and starts. Jesse had gone off the wagon. He’d gotten picked up for his third DWI. Stan’s voice broke and the sobs burst out as if they had their own lives. But the father’s voice forged on. … Stan needed to talk, and to watch him force himself to continue made me lean forward in my chair. I wanted to touch him and finally reached out and did just that. (230–1) The ritual of eating creates the occasion in which a moment of personal connection can take place, an act that resonates with the informing logic of O’Brien’s restoration project. The circumstances of his son’s death exemplify Stan as an indigenous person, not relegated to an anachronistic, reservation-based life, but facing issues that are profoundly contemporary: suicide, alcohol abuse, and legal problems. This moment limns a deeply felt emotional connection between O’Brien and Stan, which is made readily apparent in the emotive minimalism of this passage. The laconic prose points toward the emotional intensity of this moment—an esthetic that avoids a reductive effort to transcribe the evening’s feeling. This emotional, truly human connection that links O’Brien and Stan emphasizes a progression from the necessity-based bond of the Colliers, which is only made more apparent in the lack of denigrating sentiment aimed at indigenous people. These encounters in each text work toward Nelson’s trickster consciousness. They do so by representing indigenous peoples as active, sentient individuals with whom the memoirists feel a connection in spite of cultural and ethnic difference—a relation that does not attempt to transmute difference into the same, but recognizes and appreciates the fact of difference. While not wholly unproblematic, these texts do more closely and ethically engage indigeneity by acknowledging and appreciating historic and geographic specificity. Ecological restoration is at the heart of this insight, because it is directly through their respective restoration projects that Collier and O’Brien come into contact with native peoples and learn about their cultural practices. Ecological restoration thus creates the circumstances wherein Collier and O’Brien can strive for Nelson’s trickster consciousness. Whether isolated on a frozen lake or mourning the loss of a child, these moments have the potential for a liberation from the history of strife and violence that has characterized white-native relations. It is out of these encounters that an incipient novel culture might arise through reconceptualizations of the land and its histories. “A Mosaic of Landscapes”: The Restoration Site as Palimpsest Central to a novel culture and Nelson’s trickster consciousness is the productive, mutually informing coexistence of difference, out of which a new community will arise. This process entails a reconsideration not only of different cultural practices but also the place from which they have arisen. Given the importance of and attention to place in this component of a novel culture, James Barilla’s discussion of ecological restoration texts is pertinent here. Barilla reads Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac (1949), J.M. Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K (1983), and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Gardens in the Dunes (1999) as gradually moving toward a recognition of the power struggles that are inscribed on the land through the restoration process. He concludes by stressing “the need to consider the ecological restoration of landscapes in light of their indigenous cultural history, not just their ecological past[,] … to consider the restoration site as part of a mosaic of landscapes” (138). Barilla’s notion of the restoration site as “a mosaic of landscapes” is a useful model for theorizing a novel culture’s engagement with place. Rather than conceiving of a landscape under the monolithic moniker of “nature,” the mosaic affords the opportunity to reflect on different valuations of the same place. This reconsideration holds the potential for moving toward a new community that is informed by these overlapping definitions of land and envisioned as their sum total. The circumstances through which Collier acquires the land he will restore initially seem to hinder a recognition of the overlaying claims to the site of his restoration project. As he states early in the memoir, Collier “applied for, and was given by the British Columbia Game Department, sole trapping rights over some one hundred fifty thousand acres of wilderness that embraced all of the Meldrum Creek watershed” (17). This extensive claim to the watershed exemplifies an institutional blindness to alternate valuations of the region. Although they had been consigned to reservation life, most Chilcotin still spent a majority of the year in small, nomadic bands hunting and trapping throughout the watershed to augment their sparse provisions. In spite of this historical practice, Collier’s governmental land rights effectively erase indigenous sovereignty and rights to the land—a process that inhibits an understanding of his land as a palimpsest of meanings. However, Collier challenges his own totalizing trapping rights in a confrontation with a small band of Chilcotin. Finding unfamiliar muskrat traps along his trapline, Collier lies in wait for the individuals who are poaching furs from his land. While his government-sanctioned land rights entitle Collier to the traps and their catches, he returns both to the Chilcotin after explaining the nature of his restoration project, its benefits to their tribe, and the necessity of restrained trapping for the project’s success. Collier rationalizes this decision through two key insights. First, he understands that “[p]erhaps they had a plausible excuse for doing so. Theirs was the right to trap and hunt at will long before they were moved onto reservations” (101); second, he believes that “Indians, not only these four, but Indians in general, could cause us a great deal of harm unless we handled this situation right. Not bodily harm … [b]ut harm to the fur-bearers we were trying so hard to conserve” (107). Although his portrayals of the Chilcotin in this meeting are infantilizing, Collier’s acumen here elucidates his growing sense of the land as a mosaic. He not only understands his trapline in relation to the historical practices of the Chilcotin, but also contemplates his project as necessarily entailing an active collaboration with the native peoples that inhabit the Meldrum Creek watershed. This moment draws attention to Collier’s efforts at negotiating the conflicting and, at times, problematic conditions of his restoration project. While the confrontation over poaching furs is surprising, Collier’s decision is not entirely unfounded. Early in Three against the Wilderness, Collier records Lala’s history of Meldrum Creek—a history that is attentive primarily to the presence and motion of different animal species and weather patterns. The location of this history so near the opening of the narrative instills it with implicit value. Like his respect for Lala’s diagnosis of the ecosystem, Collier foregrounds his restoration work with the indigenous perspective. This influence is further evinced in his mirroring of this historical narrative’s emphasis on fauna and weather, as he too details the movements of species through the watershed and their relation to seasonal and yearly weather patterns. Collier’s effort to employ that perspective again points to the cultural element of the restoration project. He recognizes a need to rethink the land within the framework provided by Lala to assess accurately and to understand more fully the impact of restoring the beaver population. Collier supplements Lala’s narrative later in the memoir by charting the historical claims to the watershed’s resources. Following the extinction of the beaver population due to overhunting, the waters of Meldrum Creek were diverted in the late-1850s to support mining camps and to irrigate livestock. In its linear presentation, Collier makes clear that the decimated ecosystem he first encounters resulted from the cumulative effects of these extractive industries. Importantly, this second history is not an effort to subordinate Lala’s account. Instead, Collier presents her history as more commendable and valuable, since his project actively works against the extractive history of settlement—he is supplying the watershed with resources rather than taking from it. However, Collier does not ignore conceptions of the land with which he disagrees. Instead, he puts them into conversation with Lala through their mutual inclusion, thereby exemplifying an understanding of the landscape as mosaic.11 O’Brien similarly charts overlapping histories of his place in the formal construction of his text. While it would make sense to track the restoration of his buffalo herd chronologically, O’Brien opts for a narrative trajectory that resists that linear temporality in favor of thematically organized chapters. An excellent example of this structure can be seen in chapters five through seven. These chapters present the reader with a layered history of O’Brien’s Broken Heart Ranch that chronicles his predecessors’ failed agricultural ventures, traces the socioeconomic factors that led to the mass hunting of buffalo, and details the farming practices that caused the widespread loss of topsoil and native plants. Spread across three chapters, the processes that created the circumstances O’Brien finds upon purchasing the land can be understood as disparate. They are distinct but, taken together, comprise the deep-seated social and economic struggles of Midwestern farmers and ranchers. This narrative strategy presents a sophisticated awareness of the Great Plains as a site of a multifarious history—a depiction of the land that highlights the issues inherent to ecological restoration and justifies the importance of this work. While both authors convey a nuanced understanding of the places they inhabit and work, there are glaring omissions in their histories. Collier and O’Brien both emphasize a strict contrast between a resource-based conception of land and the ecological consciousness they strive for in their projects. However, they fail to include significant moments in indigenous history that center upon a resistance to that extractive view of their lands. Throughout Three against the Wilderness, Collier makes no mention of the Chilcotin War—a conflict in 1864 during which small, mobile Chilcotin bands drove road surveyors out of their territory.12 That expanding mining interests motivated the surveyors speaks directly to one layer of history that Collier includes in his discussion of the watershed. His exclusion of the war belittles the Chilcotin’s historical experience. O’Brien’s text offers a progression from Collier in this regard, but is still not without complications. At numerous points in the text, O’Brien makes direct reference to historical Sioux figures, including Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, and Sitting Bull, but these are generally couched within another history. This trend notably occurs in his discussion of the buffalo’s history on the Great Plains, wherein O’Brien relates Custer’s expedition into the Black Hills—an event that would ultimately precipitate the acceleration of the Plains Wars. This moment in the text signals an awareness of the Northern Plains as a contested space, but it defers any serious engagement with that history. This omission is noteworthy given the instrumental roles Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, and Sitting Bull played in the Plains Wars.13 Eschewing any mention of these large sociopolitical events in the history of the lands they inhabit, Collier and O’Brien falter somewhat in their efforts to convey a sense of overlapping cultural claims and meanings on the land being restored. “The Invention of Rituals and Stories”: The Emergence of Novel Cultures In spite of these stumbles, the cultural work of Collier and O’Brien comes to fruition in the nascent rituals of a novel culture. As I have suggested, Jordan’s model of ecological restoration hinges upon the restorationists’ growing sense of connection to the landscape they are in the process of restoring. For Jordan, the creation of new rituals facilitates this process, because they provide “the means by which a society manages discordant and divisive elements, both within the individual and among individuals, in order to achieve a measure of harmony” (35). He further explains that ecological restoration is an especially apt “context for the invention of the rituals and stories needed to move toward the formation of a mature relationship” because, “by demanding both that we manipulate [nature] and that we maintain total respect for it, it draws us into the middle ground that lies between these two alienated alternatives” (75). Rituals, as discussed by Jordan, serve as the primary means of realizing what I have defined as a novel culture. These burgeoning rites are the culmination of trickster consciousness and the mosaic landscape, because they are a means through which different cultures can meaningfully interact to more fully understand their place and their shared role within it. In tying this concept of ritual directly to his model of ecological restoration, Jordan elucidates the cultural work of restoration as the creation of communal meaning and value through the formation of rituals. Collier’s closing sentiment on the chance encounter with Redstone Johnny’s band is emblematic of such a rite. Recalling the experience, he reflects that the “Christmas season spent on Island Lake Flats in a sleigh at forty degrees below zero, partaking of the open hospitality of Redstone Johnny and his plump woman Lizzie—roast moose and a roaring fire—stands out as one of the best of all” (128). The sharing of a holiday meal and the comforts of the camp speaks to the Colliers’ feeling of coexistence and interrelation with the Chilcotin. This ritual embodies a similar sense of cultural hybridity in the celebration of a Christian holiday with a meal more aligned with Chilcotin practice in its outdoor, small camp setting. Significantly, Collier hires a Chilcotin man, Moleese, immediately after this communion with Redstone Johnny’s band. This act brings their cross-cultural interaction into an extended context, as they work together repairing dams for an entire season. This employment of Moleese effectively signals Collier’s understanding that his larger project relies upon the ability to see across social binaries, which Nelson posits as the key element of trickster consciousness. By working to cultivate an understanding of place and its human and other-than-human inhabitants that is sensitive to others’ needs, Collier comprehends the basis for the realization of a novel culture through this celebration of difference constitutive of a larger bioregional community. O’Brien builds upon this effort in his striving to enact a new, hybrid ritual in the buffalo hunt. Before presenting it, O’Brien justifies his inclusion of the hunt. Because of the “[s]ocietal pressure to ignore and deny our natural place in the food chain,” O’Brien questions this choice, noting that he “was sobered at the thought of walking out into my pasture and shooting five of the buffalo that I had cared for over the past two years. It occurred to me that I could … opt out of my responsibility to see that my animals died a proper death” (244). This meta-textual moment within the narrative makes clear O’Brien’s felt need to include the hunt because of its centrality to his project as a whole. It also marks an evolution from Collier’s necessity-based Christmas ritual and hiring of Moleese, because O’Brien engages in a hybrid ritual after extensive meditation on the philosophical underpinnings of such an act. Although the hunt seems paradoxical given the memoir’s chronicling of the personal and financial struggles undertaken to establish the herd, there is also the sense that O’Brien must take an active part in the respectful hunting of the buffalo.14 This is the cultural work of his project: to acquire a deeper appreciation for the Great Plains ecosystem he inhabits in a manner that embraces his position within the dynamic processes of that ecosystem. This insight is realized in the actual hunt, as O’Brien begins the first instantiation of a new ritual, the clearest embodiment in these two texts of a burgeoning novel culture. Prior to setting out with Stan and Erney, O’Brien recalls that “[w]ith apology in my voice, I said to Stan, ‘Remember that story you told me about the old full bloods burning sweetgrass over the cattle your dad traded for wood?’ Stan nodded over his coffee cup. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I bought a braid of sweetgrass, and I was wondering what you’d think of waving a little over these buffs once they’re dead’” (247–8). O’Brien’s expressed desire here to denote the occasion of the buffalo hunt as a sacred event is exemplary of the incipient, ritualized practice of a novel culture. The hybridity of this ritual is the key component—O’Brien, Stan, and Erney will use modern technology to ensure the safe hunting of the buffalo for an economic market while also not alienating themselves from the process of death inherent to the healthy function of an ecosystem. O’Brien’s hesitance and awkwardness in asking Stan are also important to keep in mind, as he is not seeking to appropriate the culture for his own ends without a knowledge of the specificity and purposes behind such a ritual. It is his knowledge of Sioux culture, acquired both through his research and his relationship with Stan, which makes the new ritual so important to O’Brien and causes him to be cognizant of the potential to offend. O’Brien’s aspiration for a hybrid ritual in the buffalo hunt marks a symbolic effort to synthesize the cultures of Plains tribes and his own—a moment that is symptomatic of an emergent cultural praxis burgeoning alongside the ecosystem’s restoration. While these inchoate rituals point toward the potential realization of a novel culture through ecological restoration, the continued success of this ecological and cultural restorative work depends upon the economic sustainability of these projects. Given the wide array of stakeholders who may not immediately perceive its worth, Allison stresses that “economic values are increasingly important when presenting the benefits of ecological restoration to the general public and regulatory agencies” (74). Although perhaps not the immediate or initial purpose for undergoing such work, economic legibility, as Allison contends, is imperative for the continuation of ecological restoration projects in perpetuity. Significantly, both Collier and O’Brien present economically sustainable projects. Although recalling it as an “outlandish means of earning a livelihood,” Collier and his family subsist on hunting moose, deer, ducks, and geese and trading muskrat and coyote pelts (87). As their restoration of the watershed develops, fur trading becomes increasingly profitable with the improved ecosystem attracting mink, lynx, beaver, and fox, all of whose furs were vastly more profitable than coyotes or muskrat. Collier comments on this drastic improvement at the end of Three against the Wilderness, recalling that in the “spring of 1956 our trapline and two nearby had yielded some four hundred beaver pelts. That seemed like an awful pile of beavers to trap when only some fifteen years ago there was scarcely a living beaver to be found throughout all the Chilcotin” (314). Concluding on this point, Collier makes no attempt to imagine the future of his project—perhaps because his ongoing struggles with emphysema would force him to move just one year after his memoir was published. However, after relocating to Riske Creek, Collier was able to privately sell his trapline, further exemplifying the increased profitability of the land as a direct result of his restoration work. O’Brien similarly concludes his memoir with a recognition of his success. After his second buffalo hunt, O’Brien reflects in the epilog that “I don’t sit at my desk and worry like I used to do. The land payments have been made for another year … Sam, Denise, and I formed the Wild Idea Buffalo Company. The sixteen young bulls I just killed are the product of that endeavor” (254). Unlike the financial uncertainty that characterizes much of the narrative, O’Brien concludes here on a note of present stability and cautious optimism for the future upon the foundation of the Wild Idea Buffalo Company. His hope here was not misplaced, as Wild Idea Buffalo Company has grown immensely in the nearly twenty years since its inception in 1997. The company’s website explains that “[f]rom a 1, 000-acre beginning we are now positively impacting over 150, 000 acres of prairie grassland, and that number is growing.” This ecological success has coincided with their financial growth—a 2012 CNN article identified that year as the first time the company made one million dollars in yearly revenue (“Buffalo Meat Makes a Million”). Although both memoirists offer fundamentally different models of sustainable restoration projects, they are each successful economically as well as ecologically. Either at the individual level, as with Collier, or in the establishment of a nation-wide business, like O’Brien, these two memoirs highlight the sustainability of cultural and ecological restoration, thereby making a compelling case for this brand of restoration as a vital intervention in environmentalist action for the twenty-first century. Importantly, this economic viability does not sidetrack either Collier’s or O’Brien’s efforts to join with indigenous cultures in the service of a shared future. It is these efforts that are indicative of the cultural process of restoration, the imperative to restore the human–human connection alongside the human–nature relationship that Stuart Allison asserts as vital to ensuring the lasting success of restorative work. As with the fieldwork necessary to restoration, there is a good deal of work still to be done in the humanities. Allison’s renewed restoration cannot happen without the cultural engagement that is provided by literature and the study of it. Humanities scholars must be a part of this new restoration paradigm for a more sustainable future engagement between nature and culture to be realized. Footnotes 1 This call for a cultural component of ecological restoration may be found in Allison (169–96), Jordan (“Restoration: Shaping the Land, Transforming the Human Spirit” and The Sunflower Forest), Higgs (341–43), and Cairns (6–7, 9, 30). 2 Krech defines this trope as an image of “the Indian in nature who understands the systemic consequences of his actions, feels deep sympathy with all living forms, and takes steps to conserve so that earth’s harmonies are never imbalanced and resources never in doubt” (21). Krech excavates historically and geographically situated practices not to lambast indigenous peoples, but to identify their role in shaping the environment. 3 While bison is the correct nomenclature, I defer to O’Brien’s choice of using “buffalo” throughout this article. 4 For his discussion of the Ecological Indian trope in relation to buffalo hunting and beaver trapping, see Krech (127–38, 175–95, respectively). 5 There is a general lack of critical work on this cultural component of ecological restoration outside of the sciences. Bowman-Broz, Barilla, Norden, and Wohlpart have conducted the few relevant studies in the humanities. However, these authors focus primarily on the content of the text without fully placing their readings into conversation with the scientific discourse surrounding ecological restoration. 6 For further explanation of the problems in defining and establishing a rubric for assessing the success of ecological restoration, see Higgs (340–5) and Allison (4–13). 7 Schroeder’s “The Restoration Experience” and Grese et al.’s “Psychological Benefits of Volunteering in Stewardship Programs” are quantitative studies of restoration project volunteers’ experiences that corroborate Jordan’s assertion here. 8 While the tribe self-identifies as “Tsilhqot’in,” I follow Collier’s use of “Chilcotin” throughout this article. 9 Nelson’s model of trickster consciousness draws heavily upon Gerald Vizenor’s “Trickster Discourse,” which focuses on how an impetus for social change can inhere within trickster narratives. According to Vizenor, a trickster narrative places the onus upon the reader to imagine a means of creating “a communal being” (286). While sharing the goal of an ethical coexistence with and celebration of difference, Nelson and Vizenor diverge in their emphasis on realizing this way of being in cultural practice and narrative, respectively. 10 This sentiment is echoed in “Redstone Johnny,” an autobiographical short story by Collier that was published in Outdoor Life two years prior to Three against the Wilderness. The story is a brief sketch of Collier’s enduring relationship with Redstone Johnny, who teaches him to hunt. At the conclusion of the story, Collier laments Redstone Johnny’s death, describing him as “one of the whitest men I’ve known in the 30-odd years I have lived in the wilds of British Columbia” (84). In spite of the narrative of the story, which posits the superiority of indigenous knowledge, Collier remains incapable of fully recognizing the role Redstone Johnny and other Chilcotin played in his family’s ultimate survival. 11 In his introduction to The Canadian Imagination, David Staines argues that, unlike America’s claim for a unified national identity in spite of clear regional distinctions, “[t]he Canadian preference for a mosaic structure in which all the ethnic and social regions retain their distinctness is central to an understanding of the nation” (3). Collier’s ability to comprehend his land claim as a site of converging cultural significations may thus arise more from his national specificity than from his own insight. 12 For further discussion of the Chilcotin War, see Lutz (131–42), Furniss (64), and Turkel (177–224). 13 In-depth analyses of Custer’s 1874 expedition into the Black Hills in search of gold and its influence over the outbreak of the Plains Wars may be found in Brown (276–90) and Yenne (175–80). 14 In The Sunflower Forest, Jordan explains that for environmentalism to be a successful grounds for realizing an ethical relation with the places one inhabits, it must deal with the most troubling elements of that relationship. According to Jordan, hunting has this potential because it confronts the necessary role death plays in the perpetuation of life within an ecosystem (44–47). As with O’Brien, Jordan identifies a dissociation from this insight as distancing the individual from their lived environment. Works Cited Allison Stuart K. Ecological Restoration and Environmental Change: Renewing Damaged Ecosystems . Routledge , 2012 . Barilla James. “A Mosaic of Landscapes: Ecological Restoration and the Work of Leopold, Coetzee, and Silko.” Coming into Contact: Explorations in Ecocritical Theory and Practice . Ed. Ingram Annie Merrill et al. U Georgia P , 2007 . 128 – 40 . Bowman-Broz Norah. “‘To Become Beavers of Sorts’: Eric Collier’s Memoir of Creative Ecology at Meldrum Creek.” The Bioregional Imagination: Literature, Ecology, and Place . Ed. Lynch Tom et al. U Georgia P , 2012 . 72 – 85 . Brown Dee. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West . Picador , 2007 . Cairns John Jr . “Ecosocietal Restoration: Reestablishing Humanity’s Relationship with Natural Systems.” Environment 37 , no. 5 ( 1995) : 4 – 33 . Google Scholar PubMed Collier Eric. “Redstone Johnny.” Outdoor Life ( 1957) : 32–33 and 84–87. Collier Eric . Three against the Wilderness . Touchwood Editions , 2007 . Furniss Elizabeth. The Burden of History: Colonialism and the Frontier Myth in a Rural Canadian Community . U British Columbia P , 1999 . Grese Robert E. , Kaplan Rachel , Ryan Robert L. , Buxton Jane . “Psychological Benefits of Volunteering in Stewardship Programs.” Restoring Nature: Perspectives from the Social Sciences and Humanities . Eds. Gobster Paul H. , Bruce Hull R . Island P , 2000 . 265 – 80 . Hansen Kristine. “Buffalo Meat Makes a Million.” CNN Money . CNN, 13 Mar. 2012 . Accessed 6 Jan. 2016. Higgs Eric S. “What is Good Ecological Restoration?” Conservation Biology 11, no. 2 ( 1997 ): 338 – 48 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Jordan William R. III . “Restoration: Shaping the Land, Transforming the Human Spirit.” Helping Nature Heal: An Introduction to Environmental Restoration . Ed. Nilsen Richard . Ten Speed P , 1991 . 4 – 5 . Jordan William R . The Sunflower Forest: Ecological Restoration and the New Communion with Nature . U California P , 2003 . Krech Shepard III . The Ecological Indian: Myth and History . Norton , 1999 . Lutz John Sutton. Makúk: A New History of Aboriginal-White Relations . U British Columbia P , 2008 . Nelson Melissa K. “Mending the Split-Head Society with Trickster Consciousness.” Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future . Ed. Nelson Melissa K . Bear & Co ., 2008 . 288 – 97 . Norden Christopher. “Ecological Restoration as Post-Colonial Ritual of Community in Three Native American Novels.” Studies in American Indian Literatures: The Journal of the Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures 6 , no. 4 ( 1994) : 94 – 106 . O’Brien Dan. Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch . Random House , 2001 . Schroeder Herbert W. “The Restoration Experience: Volunteers’ Motives, Values, and Concepts of Nature.” Restoring Nature: Perspectives from the Social Sciences and Humanities . Eds. Gobster Paul H. , Bruce Hull R . Island P , 2000 . 247 – 64 . Society for Ecological Restoration International Science & Policy Group . “The SER International Primer on Ecological Restoration.” Society for Ecological Restoration, 2 Oct. 2004 . Accessed 9 Apr. 2014. Staines David. “Introduction: Canada Observed.” The Canadian Imagination: Dimensions of a Literary Culture . Ed. David Staines. Harvard UP , 1977 . 1 – 21 . Turkel William J. The Archive of Place: Unearthing the Pasts of the Chilcotin Plateau . U British Columbia P , 2007 . Vizenor Gerald. “ Trickster Discourse.” American Indian Quarterly 14 , no. 3 ( 1990) : 277 – 87 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Wild Idea Buffalo Company . “Mission.” Wild Idea Buffalo Company. Accessed 6 Jan. 2016 . Wohlpart A. James. Walking in the Land of Many Gods: Remembering Sacred Reason in Contemporary Environmental Literature . U Georgia P , 2013 . Yenne Bill. Indian Wars: The Campaign for the American West . Westholme , 2005 . © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

Journal

ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and EnvironmentOxford University Press

Published: Apr 10, 2018

There are no references for this article.

You’re reading a free preview. Subscribe to read the entire article.


DeepDyve is your
personal research library

It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.

Enjoy affordable access to
over 18 million articles from more than
15,000 peer-reviewed journals.

All for just $49/month

Explore the DeepDyve Library

Search

Query the DeepDyve database, plus search all of PubMed and Google Scholar seamlessly

Organize

Save any article or search result from DeepDyve, PubMed, and Google Scholar... all in one place.

Access

Get unlimited, online access to over 18 million full-text articles from more than 15,000 scientific journals.

Your journals are on DeepDyve

Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.

All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.

See the journals in your area

DeepDyve

Freelancer

DeepDyve

Pro

Price

FREE

$49/month
$360/year

Save searches from
Google Scholar,
PubMed

Create lists to
organize your research

Export lists, citations

Read DeepDyve articles

Abstract access only

Unlimited access to over
18 million full-text articles

Print

20 pages / month

PDF Discount

20% off