Invasive species are organisms that are not native to a particular ecosystem, and are typically viewed as harmful to their environment. According to scientists, preventing the spread of invasive species also protects the environment from the effects of climate change. However, current Indigenous research encourages reassessing how invasive plant and insect species are understood. Indigenous perspectives seek to consider why invasive species are present in the first place, so that people can benefit from the these species, rather than focusing solely on their removal.
An Anishinaabe perspective proposes that every plant is kin. Consequently, plant invaders are viewed in terms of the kind of relationship they might create with humans. One might consider what led the so-called invasive plant to appear as a foreigner to the territory in the first place, rather than automatically sanctioning its removal. This kinship approach, notes Dr. Nicholas Reo (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians), in an interview with the CBC Radio’s Unreserved, is a “more participatory, relational approach” to science. For example, Dr. Reo’s collaborative research has opened up the possibility for invasive cattail to be considered as an alternative fuel source, or as food, rather than as a nuisance and an undesirable species to wetland ecosystems around the Great Lakes.
Indigenous perspectives to understanding invasive species, such as through a kinship approach, can be viewed in concert with, or as an alternative to, the federal and provincial legislation and regulatory policies on invasive species in Canada.
By Leela Viswanathan
(Image Credit: Vyacheslav Makodin, Unsplash)