A research & learning centre for conversations spanning traditional indigenous knowledge, modern science, and contemporary culture for new policy, environmental planning, ecological design, and public art with a focus on the Salish Sea and its Gulf and San Juan Islands between the mainland of the North American West Coast and Vancouver Island firstname.lastname@example.org …..TERRITORIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT….. ḴEXMIN field station is focused on the species, ecosystems, communities, and cultures of the islands of the Salish Sea where the human demographics involve the presence, stewardship and cultures of scores of mainly Salish First Nations. ḴEXMIN field station is headquartered on Salt Spring Island in the southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia and we look out to and engage with the similar ecosystems of the San Juan Islands of Washington State. The islands of the Salish Sea have nurtured exceptional level of human populations and cultural diversity going back at least 14,000 years (Hutchings and Williams 2020). In recent centuries, a score of Salish languages have been spoken in settlements on these islands along with the more recent trade language, Chinook jargon. Just in the southern Gulf Islands, straddling the Canada-USA border, the SENĆOŦEN and HUL'Q'UMI'NUM' languages are renewing. The scores of indigenous communities with territories on the islands in the central part of the Salish Sea involve two confederations, the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group and the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council, with the following First Nation governments historically and currently active in stewarding, harvesting, and inhabiting their lands and seas on the southern Gulf Islands: Cowichan Tribes; Halalt; Lyackson; Malahat; Pauquachin; Penelakut; Semiahmoo; Snuneymuxw; Stz'uminus; Tsartlip; Tsawwassen; Tsawout; Tseycum; and Ts'uubaa-asatx. Virtually all of the southern Gulf Islands remain unceded to the governments of British Columbia and Canada. In 1852, the W̱SÁNEĆ (involving leadership of the Malahat, Pauquachin, Tsartlip, Tsawout; Tseycum) were forced, under the threat of violence, to accede to a treaty with the British Empire. A similar treaty was imposed on the Snuneymuxw in 1854. But these 'Douglas Treaties' did not specifically vacate indigenous ownership, inhabitation and stewardship over the southern Gulf Islands. In 2009, the Tsawwassen First Nation did forge an agreement with the governments of British Columbia and Canada which involves ongoing presence, stewardship and consultation of the southern Gulf Islands. The First Nations communities with territories on the southern Gulf Islands total over 14,000 enrolled members along with another another several hundred Métis, non-status Indians, and individuals enrolled with other First Nations living on these islands. This total of indigenous people is comparable to the current total population of the southern Gulf Islands, which while officially around 20,000 people involves a large portion who have primary residents away from these islands. Aside from the Penelakut who have been able to maintain their residences on Penelakut Island, the indigenous communities on the southern Gulf Islands were destroyed, largely through governmental coercion and state violence, by the early 20th Century. Today, markers for housing, housing densities, infrastructure, services, and natural resources on the southern Gulf Islands are relatively favourable whereas Indian Reserves, with territories on these islands and often in visual contact, remain relatively crowded and underserved with dwindling opportunities for traditional subsistence. There are a raft of other First Nations and indigenous communities residing and active in the northern Gulf Islands and in the southern areas of the Salish Sea in the Puget Sound — along with several other Salish languages and treaties. At the latitude of Paris, the Gulf and San Juan Islands are biologically rich, as a biogeographical crossroad of the south, east and north. Today, legal frameworks are being built for authentic joint management of the crucial network of protected areas involving First Nations, government agencies and community-based organizations. Richard M. Hutchings and Scott Williams. 2020. Salish Sea Islands Archaeology and Precontact History. Journal of Northwest Anthropology 54(1): 22 – 61.
blooming ḴEXMIN, late spring in Lək̓ʷəŋən Territory, Vancouver Island
ḴEXMIN [SENĆOŦEN], Lomatium nudicaule, just south of the 1852 Indian Reserve line set (under severe threat of imperial violence) for the W̱SÁNEĆ, north of Island View Beach, Central Saanich, Vancouver Island
“One ceremonially prized plant, ‘wild celery’ (Lomatium nudicaule), was, and is still today, widely used and sought for medicinal and ceremonial purposes, and its seeds used as gifts. Some contemporary Northwest Coast peoples are careful to leave wild celery seeds behind, or to scatter seeds (when gathering medicines) to ensure it’s continuation, and this seems a likely candidate as a species that was managed and whose range has been extended through past human intervention. This attribution of a ‘spirit’ within all of nature’s creations, and of the powers of plants to affect human lives and human well-being, is another reflection of, and reason for, peoples’ stewardship of the plants they depend upon…” (Douglas Deur and Nancy J. Turner. 2005. Conclusions. in Keeping It Living: Traditions of Plant Use and Cultivation on the Northwest Coast of North America. Douglas Deur and Nancy J. Turner (eds). Vancouver: UBC Press / Seattle: University of Seattle Press. pages 331 – 342. quote from pages 334 – 335 )
Gordon Brent BROCHU-INGRAM, KEXMIN field station, April 9, 2021, The Land We Would Like To Be: Renewing biodiversity conservation planning strategies as part of joint management with First Nations around the northern Salish Sea. City and Regional Futures Colloquium, Department of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning.
ḴEXMIN [SENĆOŦEN], Lomatium nudicaule, is a powerful flowering plant linking humans to the ecosystems in which we live in the drier areas near the West Coast of North America from Northern California to the Salish Sea.
While the Salish cultivated Springbank clover, Trifolium wormskioldii, on relatively dry sites, such as Clover Point in Victoria, much more has been recorded about indigenous cultivation in estuaries north of the Salish Sea. This site on Salt Spring Island, at nearly 300 metres, is still relatively warm and damp from seasonal seepages. But how the Cowichan cultivated, harvested, and stewarded Springbank clover, if at all on this mountain, is not so clear.
Garry oak, Quercus garryana, has an exceptionally long range along the Pacific from the higher mountains of Baja California to the shores of the Salish Sea. But the tree only dominates certain ecosystems, and grows into a particularly large tree, from west central Oregon northward. Around the Salish Sea, Garry oak savannah, where grasses and forbs are not under more than 50% tree cover are the products of particularly dry, south-western slopes combined with several thousand years of low-temperature, Salish burning.
Because of suppression of wildfire and traditional Salish burning, these Garry oak savannahs are in rapid decline shifting to Garry oak woodland, with more than 50% tree cover with much less, exposed grassland. And without fire, Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, is often establishing, overtaking, and killing Garry oak as we can see this beginning to happen to a grove of Garry oak on Mount Tuam.
On the April 5, 2020 walk from Mountain Road into the Garry oak savannah, just below the south-western corner of the central of the three parcels comprising Mount Tuam Ecological Reserve, I found this old pocket watch that was probably uncovered by snows months earlier. This Westclox pocket watch is identified as made in Canada which only took place from 1922 to 1930 after which time the Canadian plant in Peterborough, Ontario was bought by a larger company with another name. This model was the first mass-produced pocket watch and, while cheap, could well have been the prized possession of the owner. While the watch was found in young forest (barely fifty years old), it was a few metres away from sheep fencing and in the period when the watch was produced and sold, the major activity for non-native people to be on those slopes was to tend flocks.
synopsis: This project is about one anecdote to planetary burnout: low-temperature burning based on traditional additional practices that creates ecological space for wild and traditional fruit trees that provide food to pollinators and humans while fixing carbon. The proposed work at Het Nieuwe Instituut centres on generating essays, presentations, and performances that answer a series of questions. How can notions of the ‘anthropocene’ be fully decolonized with various disparities accorded indigenous communities illustrated through contemporary site-based and multimedia visual practices? How can notions of burn-out and burning be explored for metropolitan and indigenous art-worlds and when can re-establishment of traditional burning by often marginalized communities and unrecognized landowners be considered contemporary aesthetic interventions? Similarly, how can various tree cultivation cultures (some of which rely on ‘cool burning’), that span the colonized and colonizers, be explored? And how can strategies and interventions to rapidly re-establish fruit tree woodlands in urban and suburban areas, to function as carbon sinks and security for both human and pollinator food, be considered as contemporary performative and site-based artistic practices? Finally, there is a more paradigmatic question that can be explored for indefinitely. Can the re-contextualizing and repurposing of localized, indigenous ecological and cultural practices, by descendants of respective communities, as contemporary aesthetic interventions be a viable form of decolonization where retrogressive forms of appropriation can be identified and countered?
introduction & problem statement: While levels of combustion and carbon transfer into the atmosphere have been unsustainable since the Industrial Revolution, there are earlier burning practices originating from localized, indigenous communities that have not only been beneficial, ecologically, but also forms of site-based, cultural expression. Notions of the ‘Anthropocene’ that have emerged over the last decade, have too often conflated thousands of years of ‘cool burning’ with the more recent Apocalyptic fires that are contributing to climate change. And without proactive forms of light burning, to lower fuel levels in forests and woodlands, the temperate latitudes are destined to see the kinds of mass incineration of communities observed recently in Greece, California, Portugal, British Columbia, and Russia. Today, we see a range of governments advocating ways to ‘fire-smart’ (a concocted verb) homes as to avoid uncontrollable fire storms that are increasingly leading to incineration of people and communities. In contrast, new ways to sequester carbon, such as massive planting of more resilient forms of fruit trees, are necessary while countering related trends through providing food for human beings and pollinators and shade for increasingly hot urban areas. But the ‘arts’ for bringing indigenous practices, such as cool burning for fruit cultivation, into new forms of environmental problem-solving related to climate change have been poorly theorized and barely explored.
Apocalyptic fire & postcolonial melancholy: In recent decades there has been a blossoming of largely parallel theorizing in the Anthropocene as a cosmopolitan extension of formerly neocolonial forms of early environmentalism and indigenous politics and culture that remain rooted in diverse experiences of particular localities. While Anthropocene theorizing is almost inherently global, new work on indigeneity, particularly in relationship to ecosystem management and problem-solving, is largely site-specific. A more fundamental tension is that the core spectre of Anthropocene theorizing centres on Judeo-Christian forms of ‘Apocalyptic fire’, as cosmic retribution for lack of concern for the earth, indigenous theorizing (and culture) is largely centred on having survived the last five century of Apocalyptic genocide. So the ecological spectre in indigenous theorizing includes climate change but as part of the continued losses: grinding processes of impoverishment, ill health, and high rates of death; economic and political marginalization; and assimilation. And while great strides have been made in indigenous communities, in countries such as Canada, in retaking self-management of communities, territories, and natural resources, these gains are often over-shadowed by awareness of the extent of the losses leading to forms of postcolonial melancholy that can paralyze individuals and communities — even in the face of existential threats such as climate change. And postcolonial melancholy extends to an awareness of the extent of traditional knowledge that has been lost and actively destroyed – such as the lack of colonial and neocolonial recognition of indigenous orchards in British Columbia, the nearly total destruction of those cultural sites, and the erasure of respective traditional knowledge through residential schools. In the face of such huge losses, sometimes it just nice to do a bit of ‘cool’ burning.
The contrasts between these two profoundly different experiences of climate change — the global cosmopolitan and the localized indigenous, especially in relationship to more existential forms of burn-out, have only been explored superficially. So today as an indigenous person, living in the territory in which I grew up, recreating a low-intensity burn as part of re-establishing native fruit trees, as a gift to the earth and a homage to the elders who trained me, far out-weighs the respective carbon that is added to the atmosphere — a fraction of my total carbon footprint dominated by reliance on internal combustion engines (including trains and buses and even bicycles), power grids still dependent on natural gas, consumer patterns that almost require more polluting, and digital technologies that rely on unsustainable forms of energy production (notably cryptocurrencies).
project concept: The object of this project, partially outlined at www.gordonbrentingram.ca/presqueperdu, is to inspire the rapid expansion of urban woodlands dominated by native fruit trees in the middle latitudes of the North Hemisphere with particular interest for the urban areas around Vancouver and Seattle, with populations totally over 8 million people and European cities in the same latitudes especially Paris, Geneva, and the Randstad.
traditional knowledge, modern science & aesthetic representation strategies: It is my deep belief that the extent of the losses of traditional knowledge about burning and native tree crops (different species of the same genera imposed through settler orchards), cannot be fully understood, especially for indigenous people, through ethnography and science. The losses and the ruptures are too profound. Recovering these practices can best be done through transmissions of experience embodied in the ‘play’ of contemporary collaborative art. Similarly, there are new forms of cosmopolitan avoidance about the coming fire storms of climate change. In the context of globalization, contemporary multimedia and site-based art often offers the best chance to disrupt, inspire, demonstrate, guide, and recover and heal land and communities.
research approach & methodologies: The proposed work at Het Nieuwe Instituut would centre on four sets of activities:
participating in seminars and debates with colleagues;
completion of a set of advanced bibliographies some of have already been posted but require expansion;
completion of one theoretical essay (tentatively entitled ‘Decolonizing the Anthropocene’) and three long chapters with sub-headings that currently total over 40,000 words and are intended for websites and catalogues; and
site visits and interviews for development of a set of presentations, performances, and interventions oriented to north-western Europe.
The work on completing the bibliographies would focus on the following: the intersection of Anthropocene and indigenous theory especially for site-based and public art; contemporary visual practices for site-based, ecological, and land art involving burning and indigenous and traditional tree cultivation; and a well-along critique of the writings of Marcel Proust and his codification of the modern consumer aesthetic (that my work above effectively challenges).
fellowship products, media & dissemination: My goals for products from the proposed work centre on the following:
publication of a high profile, peer-reviewed essay on the central discourses of this fellowship at the Nieuwe Instituut, tentatively entitled, ‘Decolonising the Anthropocene’, and submitted to journals such as e-flux with dissemination within a year of completion of the fellowship;
completion, editing, and posting on-line of three long essays (15,000 to 25,000 words with subheadings) on radical re-establishment of traditional burning and circumpolar fruit tree woodlands as contemporary site-based, multimedia art as a kind of ‘decolonial land art’;
providing up to five public events in the period of the fellowship in north-western Europe with a minimum of 60 minutes duration such as presentations, performances, and site-based interventions; and
initial phases of at least three, multimedia works with initial photographs, videos, site-based sculpture, text, and ongoing proposals (most likely related to the performances and interventions proposed above).
proposed calendar: I would be available to be in Europe full-time for the entire six months, from September through February, but would be just as happy to stagger the months to optimize opportunities for seminars, presentations, and the Ukraine field trip. Within the context of this flexibility, the following would be the key activities for each month:
Month 1 – seminars with other fellows, completion of literature reviews and bibliographies, completion of long essays for posting, conception of the public events,
Month 2 – seminars with other fellows; completion of literature reviews and bibliographies, completion of long essays for posting, planning the public events, site visits for the multimedia projects,
Month 3 – seminars with other fellows; completion of literature reviews and bibliographies, completion of long essays for posting, executing at least one public event, site visits for the multimedia projects,
Month 4 – writing the shorter and most important essay as BURN-OUT synthesis, executing at least one public event, completion of the proposals for the multimedia projects
Month 5 — writing the shorter and most important essay as BURN-OUT synthesis, executing at least one public event, completion of the proposals for the multimedia projects
Month 6 — writing the shorter and most important essay as BURN-OUT synthesis, executing at least one public event, completion of the proposals for the multimedia projects
graphic material: The illustrations for this proposal are posted at the following page:
and more general discussions of expanding wild and traditional fruit tree woodlands for carbon sinks and food security for pollinators and humans is posted in the pages of the following project site: www.gordonbrentingram.ca/presqueperdu .
preparation for this research & creative production: The following experiences of prepared me to embark and complete this work in ways that optimize public debate and impact: growing up in an indigenous family struggling with three declining languages; exposure to traditional burning and native fruit tree cultivation practices starting at five years of age; early arts training spanning local indigenous traditions and contemporary Western mixed media; advanced degrees in contemporary art, environmental science, and ecological design; over a hundred publications, fifteen exhibitions, and eighty public presentations; currently actively engaged in traditional land stewardship and food production fifteen kilometres from where I was born and grew up.
 I will start the review of most recent literature on the Anthropocene with McKenzie Wark’s 2015, Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene. (London: Verso).
 Two departures in contemporary art are Heather Davis’s 2015 anthology, Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies (Berlin: Anexact) and Emily Eliza Scott and Kirsten Swenson’s 2015 anthology, Critical Landscapes: Art, Space, Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press).
 I have read and reread all of Proust’s writings in the English translations and have a moderate command of the original material in French. With many pages of notes, I hope to complete an introductory and rather sardonic essays, with a working title of ‘Proust and Me’, not focused on his passages on social commentary, opaque homoeroticism, and antisemitism but rather his mention of orchard trees, rural landscapes, and the triggers for memory and narrative of particular odours and tastes.
ḴEXMIN field station
Tracing Skwácháy̓s, “water coming up from ground beneath,” in today’s False Creek Flats
8 April – May 24, 2019
still underwater | 1: traces, pronunciations, recollections
The former inlet and salt marshes bounded today by Vancouver’s Union, Clark, Great Northern Way, and Main Street, were once known as Skwácháy̓s and False Creek East, what might roughly be translated as “water coming up from ground beneath.” In the centennial years of the filling and destruction of hole-in-bottom, PLOT invites the land art collective ḴEXMIN field station to initiate new research, field trips, monitoring, test sites, public conversations, screenings, ceremonies, performances, interventions, and proposals. In various periods over the next three years, still underwater will explore new forms of decolonial land art based on emergent protocols in acknowledging a wider range of territorial, linguistic, cultural, and historical concerns, as well as emerging relationships, alliances, and communalities.
At the core of still underwater are a series of questions about new opportunities for environmental, site-based, and public art on the Pacific North-West coast: How can artists, curators and audiences—with a wide range of heritages—engage fully around unceded land and sites, with respect and support towards the rapidly evolving cultural, political, and legal protocols of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ / Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) nations? For indigenous artists, what does it mean to have a heritage and political entitlement around unceded sites such as “water coming up from ground beneath”? On the seismically-vulnerable terrain of “water coming up from ground beneath,” how can site-based artistic interventions and permanent public art works hold transformative roles within its ‘redeveloping’ neighbourhoods, where new construction seems inevitable despite its geological instability?
This event is held on the unceded territory of the sḵwx̱wú7mesh, sel̓íl̓witulh, & xʷməθkʷəy̓əm nations.
ḴEXMIN field station is a loose collective of indigenous and non-indigenous site-based artists, environmental researchers, scientists, and designers focused on the waters, shores and islands of the Salish Sea. Currently located on Salt Spring Island, the field station exists as a research, learning and experimentation space to nurture conversations spanning traditional indigenous knowledge, modern science, and contemporary culture. Individuals currently contributing to ‘still underwater’ include Musqueam weaver and public artist Debra Sparrow, Salish curator Rose Spahan, Métis public artist and environmental scientist Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram (currently coordinating the 2019 events at PLOT), public artist and designer Alex Grünenfelder, ecological designer and public artist Oliver Kellhammer, and Sharon Kallis a community engaged environmental artist.
This Garry oak woodland is on top of small knoll above the beach and has been referred to in English by the Tawout as ‘Belly-Rising’ or ‘Belly-Rising-Up’. This ecosystem is exceptional in its continuous management by Tsawout elders including the late Elsie Claxton. Diverse in harvested forbs, notably camas and chocolate lily, this oak woodland is also exceptional in the amount of lichens thriving in the crowns.
These rectangular stone enclosures, at 80 metres elevation on terraces above the village site of W̱EN,NÁ,NEĆ on Salt Spring Island, suggests cultivated beds of bulbs, such as camas and chocolate lily, and carrot-like roots including KEXMIN (Lomatium nudicaule) and yampah (Perideridia gairdneri). The small size of these beds, with each less than 80 cm X 40 cm, and the lack of deep earth suggest horticultural more than funerary sites.
There are numerous other archaeological sites in nearby valleys, hills and islands that go back at least 7,000 years. W̱EN,NÁ,NEĆ was occupied for millennia until residents were forcibly evicted from their own homes by the Government of Canada in 1923. The W̱EN,NÁ,NEĆ village site, established as an Indian Reserve in 1873, is not currently inhabited but continues to be carefully protected and stewarded by the Tsawout First Nation of Saanichton, British Columbia.