Eco-cultural Restoration of Riparian Wetlands in California: Case Study of White Root (Carex barbarae Dewey; Cyperaceae)

Abstract

This study defines the cultural and ecological significance of white root (Carex barbarae Dewey; Cyperaceae), and presents a template for eco-cultural restoration, drawing from both Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Scientific Ecological Knowledge. Carex barbarae is an herbaceous perennial understory plant in valley oak riparian woodlands, endemic to California and southern Oregon. Referred to as white root, C. barbarae is an indicator species of both cultural and ecological health. Two-thirds of the California Indian tribes within the range of white root historically tended and managed these sedges for basketweaving. Traditional management by Indian groups resulted in the creation and maintenance of homogeneous patches throughout low-elevation riparian forests of California, maintaining a lawn-like understory and a park-like physiognomy. Gathering and tending practices significantly influenced the distribution, quality and abundance of white root beds on species, community, and landscape scales. Understanding how indigenous people shaped their environment using Traditional Resource Management practices and related ecological effects is integral to successful contemporary restoration of riparian habitats. Understanding the reciprocal relationships between California Indians and their sovereign landscape is important to contemporary indigenous cultures and their identity, resilience, and vitality.

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Acknowledgements

In the timeless past, Miwok ancestors cared for and tended-their ecosystem and conducted specific world-renewal ceremonies. I present this information in recognition and in honor of the California Indian cultures in the Cosumnes River watershed. In particular, I am deeply grateful for the elders, friends and basketweavers who shared their precious knowledge with me. Deep gratitude to the Deuchsky family, the Denton family, the Baugh family, the Bunting family, Sage LaPena, Gladys Dick McKinney, Julie Dick, Florence McKinney, Susan Billy, Craig Bates, Linda Yamani, Don Hankins, Frank Lake and other teachers who are no longer with us. I intend for this information to be used to honor California Indian cultures, as well as indigenous people around the world, the original stewards and caretakers of this precious Mother Earth. Special thanks to my friend Linda Storm for her patient advise and editing on this document. I would also like to give special thanks to ethnobotanist Kathleen Harrison for the Fig. 1 botanic illustration, which I have treasured for 20 years. Kathleen is the founder of the Occidental Center for the Arts, and home of Botanic Dimensions Ethnobotany Library. I would also like to give special thanks to M Kat Anderson for her guidance, inspiration and knowledge while I was working on my doctorate. Thank you also to Miles Roberts, CSU Geography Dept., for maps in Fig. 2, Terri Castaneda CSU Anthropology Dept. for access to basket collections; Meredith Sierra for photography for Fig. 6; D Merritt for editing; Tawatchai Kodsuntie, Areawest Environmental Inc., for graphics; and anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.

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Stevens, M.L. Eco-cultural Restoration of Riparian Wetlands in California: Case Study of White Root (Carex barbarae Dewey; Cyperaceae). Wetlands (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-020-01323-3

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Keywords

  • Traditional resource management
  • Traditional ecological knowledge
  • Carex barbarae
  • California basketweaving
  • Eco-cultural restoration