ḴEXMIN field station: mission

mid-July seeding of KEXMIN (in green) Lomatium nudicaule

ḴEXMIN, Lomatium nudicaule, seeding (the stalks in green), mid-July in a historic patch along Dallas Road in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria , British Columbia

“We cannot carry out the kind of decolonization our Ancestors set in motion if we don’t create a generation of land-based, community-based intellectuals and cultural producers who are accountable to our nations and whose life work is concerned with the regeneration of these systems rather than meeting the overwhelming needs of the Western academic complex or attempting to ‘Indigenize the academy’ by bringing Indigenous Knowledge into the academy on the terms of the academy itself…The land must again become the pedagogy.” Leanne Betasamosake Simpson 2017[*]

“That the KEXMIN, Indian consumption plant, is a good medicine used to clean and open the way for the pure spirits to come near.”  Tsawout First Nation  

KEXMIN field station is a centre for research & learning spanning traditional indigenous knowledge and contemporary science for environmental planning, ecological design, public art and other forms of contemporary cultural production 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.

[*] Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. 2017. As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom through Radical Resistance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. pages 159-60.

the Salish Sea & Puget Sound as an organism

introduction to the work of ḴEXMIN field station

We are currently developing and discussing a mission statement. While currently active in a range of projects, this work all falls into the blank boxes in the mission matrix below. There is already too much work to be able to insert into these blank boxes.

contact: kexminfieldstation@gmail.com

ḴEXMIN, Lomatium nudicaule, a species with deep cultural, medicinal & nutritional significance to Salish communities

2018 September 24 ḴEXMIN, south of the Tsawout / SȾÁUTW̱ treaty lands P9240014 photograph by Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

 
 
 
 
 
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blooming ḴEXMIN, late spring in Lək̓ʷəŋən Territory, Vancouver Island

2019 2019 May 27 Lomatium nudicaule just beginning to flower, Lək̓ʷəŋən territory, Vancouver Island P1010022

Two of the most important Salish plants just coming into bloom: ḴEXMIN (yellow flowers) and camas, Camassia spp, in a traditional Lekwungen agricultural, gathering, and stewardship site, 2019 April 25 Lək̓ʷəŋən territory, Vancouver Island P4250100

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

2018 September 24 ḴEXMIN, south of the Tsawout / SȾÁUTW̱ treaty lands, Vancouver Island  P9240083

2018 September 24 ḴEXMIN, south of the Tsawout / SȾÁUTW̱ treaty lands P9240017

“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 )

2018 September 24 ḴEXMIN south of the Tsawout / SȾÁUTW̱ treaty lands P9240028 This population is highly vulnerable to ongoing sea level rise and saltwater intrusion into roots.

In addition, the 2020 COVID19 pandemic has compelled herbalists to highlight the exceptional power of Lomatium  species as traditional and settler medicine for treating lung and viral disorders.

celebrating Earth Day through learning from black hawthorn, Crataegus suksdorfii, especially its importance to pollinators & ecological persistence across western North America

2021 April-21 black hawthorn, Crataegus suksdorfii, in a grove adjacent to KEXMIN field
station that has been re-establishing for several decades after a century of intensive goat
and sheep grazing P4210007

For the second year in a row, we are celebrating Earth Day at KEXMIN field station, on the Gulf Islands of south-western Canada, through learning from black hawthorn, MÁT̸ŦEN ILĆ [SENĆOŦEN] / Metth’unulhp [Hul’q’umi’num’], Crataegus suksdorfii, one of a number of disappearing native fruit trees. This species currently grows from northern British Columbia and Haida Gwaii to northern California and then across the Rockies to Lake Superior. We have much to learn about how these trees persist, recolonize and can be protected and better restored including through field research combined with social strategies rooted in contemporary culture.

Renewing biodiversity conservation planning strategies as part of joint management with First Nations especially for the drier islands around the northern Salish Sea.

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.

harvesting fruit with seed of Pacific crabapples, ḴÁ,EW̱ [SENĆOŦEN], Malus fusca, for ecological restoration and indigenous food sovereignty

Harvesting fruit for planting seed of Pacific crabapples, ḴÁ,EW̱ [SENĆOŦEN], Malus fusca, on the first day of autumn, 2020 September 22, Beaver Point, Salt Spring Island * P1010021

ḴÁ,EW̱ [SENĆOŦEN], Pacific crabapples, Malus fusca, is an important fruit tree throughout the North Pacific region and is recorded from Sequoia National Park in California, mainly along the Pacific coast, to Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula (Routson, Volk, Richards, Smith, Nabhan and Wyllie de Echeverria 2012). The extent of the far western extent of this species in the Aleutian Islands remains poorly charted.

Given that Malus fusca sometimes hybridizes with other wild and landrace species in the primary gene pool of cultivated apple, there are a number of east Asian species near adjacent coasts spanning Alaska, Far Eastern Russia, Japan, Korea and China including M. floribunda, M. baccata, M. mandhurica, M. asiatica, M. komarovii, and M. sieboldii. And with aerial pollination some alleles and genotypes move around the North Pacific region — especially along and close to areas with mild maritime climates. And many of these gene flows are vulnerable to climate change and urbanization.

reference
Kanin J. Routson , Gayle M. Volk, Christopher M. Richards, Steven E. Smith, Gary Paul Nabhan, and Victoria Wyllie de Echeverria. 2012. Genetic Variation and Distribution of Pacific Crabapple. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science. 137(5): 325–332.

seaside juniper, PET̸EṈILĆ [SENĆOŦEN], Juniperus maritima, is endemic to the drier islands of the Salish Sea and was used to ward off disease

seaside juniper, Tsawout lands, Saanich, Vancouver Island 2020 August 7 P1010017

Seaside juniper, PET̸EṈILĆ [SENĆOŦEN], Juniperus maritima, is endemic to the Gulf and San Juan Islands and the adjacent Olympic Range. This is one of the rarest of the North American juniper species. The Salish relied on this conifer to to ward off disease.

seaside juniper, Tsawout lands, Saanich, Vancouver Island 2020 September 10 P1010002

This relatively young juniper, probably less than fifty years old, is on Tsawout, W̱SÁNEĆ, territory near the beach south of the southern line of the 1852 treaty. This mosaic of dunes, marsh and meadow is vulnerable to the rapid sea level rise taking place on the south-east coast of the Saanich Peninsula.

seaside juniper along Burgoyne Bay in the Hwmet’utsun protected landscape,
Salt Spring Island, 2020 September 13 P1010003 The juniper is in the centre of
the image with a young arbutus (madrone) on the left and a young Douglas fir
on the right. This juniper is probably twice or three times the age of this arbutus
and fir tree. This is the more typical form and habitat of seaside juniper though
are larger bush forms that grow near shorelines as well.

a large grove of chokecherry, tuluµulhp [HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’], Prunus virginiana, with fruit a week before the peak of ripeness & blooming vines of the native clematis, Clematis ligusticifolia

2020 August 6 chokecherry a week before peak of ripeness, Hwmet’utsun, Salt Spring Island P1010099
2020 August 6 blooming native clematis on Hwmet’utsun, Salt Spring Island P1010072
trunk of old chokecherry tree with sapsucker holes, Hwmet’utsun,
Salt Spring Island 2020 August 6 P1010013

This grove of chokecherry, [cf tuluµulhp [HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’ with this word sometimes also used for bitter cherry], Prunus virginiana, on Hwmet’utsun on Salt Spring Island, was visited on August 6, 2020 with fruit (drupes) a week before the peak of ripeness. This area has a long history of Cowichan stewardship and harvesting that has only be partially obstructed in the last half century.

2020 August 6 blooming native clematis Hwmet’utsun P1010030

This exceptional chokecherry woodland, similar to communities in the southern Puget Sound on more mesic and wetland edges of Garry oak woodland, has a subdominant vine, western white clematis, Clematis ligusticifolia. This native West Coast clematis is rare in the mid and north parts of the Salish Sea. At its northern margins , this species rarely occurs on the coast and is associated with areas of hotter, drier summers in the British Columbia Southern Interior.

2020 August 6 chokecherry on Hwmet’utsun P1010063
2020 August 6 a sunny afternoon in one of the North-West Pacific coast’s rarest woodland types dominated by relatively old, dominant chokecherry trees on Hwmet’utsun P1010020

Chokecherry is an important element of local efforts at food and medicinal sovereignty and has exceptional value in ecological restoration of more mesic, south-facing sites as well as well as sunny sites on the edge of wetlands.

2020 August 6 chokecherry a few days from peak ripeness on Hwmet’utsun P1010120

Coastal sage, Artemisia suksdorfii, flowering and going to seed in the early summer

2020 July 6 coastal sage in an exclosure of repurposed sheep fencing in the
ḴEXMIN field station restoration area P1010012

There are several species of West coast mugworts or sages with the ecology of coastal sage, Artemisia suksdorfii, associated with dry maritime cliffs often with salt air and relatively uncommon, is somewhat unclear.

This pungent species had some uses for the Salish, particularly related to its aromatic oils, extending to digestive medicine.

Back to Tuam: Northern Garry oak, Quercus garryana, savannah dotted with Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziessi, parkland

The lower edge of the Mount Tuam oak savannah 2020 April 12 * P1010002

One the many 200 to 300 year old Garry oaks on the south-west slope of Mount Tuam,
2020 April 12 P1010025

The Garry oak savannah on the south-west face of Mount Tuam, Salt Spring Island, form in part as a Salish horticultural landscape. Today, most of the Northern Garry oak savannah on the Gulf Islands has been overgrown but this dreamy space persists and gives us many clues to what was and possibilities for ecological restoration and permaculture.


A grove of 100 to 200 year old oaks on Mount Tuam that have only been invaded by Douglas fir in the last 20 years 2020 April 12 P1010015

There is not a lot of Northern Garry oak, Quercus garryana, savannah left: grasslands with forbs, herbs, and wildflowers and less then 50% of the cover in large oaks, many between 200 and 300 years old. With many of these historic savannahs are now overgrown with young Douglas fir forest and invasive plants, such as broom, the south-west face of Mount Tuam on Salt Spring Island, part ecological reserve and special management area and part Department of Transport lands for the beacons for Victoria International Airport, is a particularly sunny, windy, and dry set of habitats. With little fire and many invasive forbs, these lands have maintained the expansiveness of grassland along high-contrast ecological edges around ancient trees.

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Fire, invasion & cloning

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One of more of a score of Garry oak clonal circles, well under a century old,
on the lower half of the Mount Tuam oak savannah 2020 April 12 * P1010038

On April 12, 2020, ḴEXMIN field station researchers explored three current dynamics in the Tuam savannah:

  1. the persistence of a large number of 200 to 300 year old Garry oak trees creative through Salish stewardship including low-temperature burning, with little competition from other trees because of the dryness of the slope due to sun and wind, that in turn provide exceptionally high ph environments for plants and invertebrates;
  2. the recent invasion of the more mesic edges of the savannah with very young Douglas fir that in turn shade out many grassland and oak woodland species; and
  3. the gradual loss of the larger, older Garry oak trees, vulnerably to increasingly powerful storms, and their replacement with circles of younger clones, from the same roots (that could well be thousands of years old) that might well come to grow together into very large individuals much like what they have replaced.
The contrast between a savannah Garry oak and a parkland Douglas fir, of roughly the same ages of 200 to 300 years each on Mount Tuam * 2020 April 12 * P1010027 * The ridge and island in the distance is Turtleback Mountain on Orcas Islands, Washington State
A cross-section of a ‘parkland’ form of a 200 to 300 year old Douglas fir,
on Mount Tuam * 2020 April 12 * P1010021

Within these small expanses of remaining Northern Garry oak savannahs are a few large, old Douglas fir trees that established in these oak, forb and grass lands centuries before. The habitat values of these coniferous trees, typically two or three times the height and biomass of the larger, older Garry oaks, are explored in terms of,

a. vertical structures and refuges particularly for nesting,

b. high contrast edges and perches especially for raptors, and

c. exceptional shade.

 

 

 
 

 
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Large Douglas fir trees provide crucial habitat within landscapes of oaks, forbs, and grass

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Within these small expanses of remaining Northern Garry oak savannahs are a few large, old Douglas fir trees that established in these oak, forb and grass lands centuries before. The habitat values of these coniferous trees, typically two or three times the height and biomass of the larger, older Garry oaks, are explored in terms of,

a. vertical structures and refuges particularly for nesting,

b. high contrast edges and perches especially for raptors, and

c. exceptional shade.

 

 

 
 

 
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Large, 200 to 300 year old Douglas fir trees within expanses of large oaks, forb, and grass land

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Precious Garry oak, Quercus garryana, savannah on Mount Tuam, Salt Spring Island

old Garry oak, western parcel of Mount Tuam Ecological Reserve – Salt Spring Island April 1978 photograph by a very young, Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

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.

2020 April 5 pocket watch discovery above Mountain Road below the south-west corner of the middle of the three parcels of Mount Tuam Ecological Reserve

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.