By Hector Ortiz
There was a time in North America when people saw plants and land as sacred, a gift from the Gods. The use and cultivation of some of those sacred plants and land was restricted to only tribal priests, medicine men, chiefs, and warriors.
You might think, “We are far from that time, this only exists in the history books, in the archaeological records, in the museum collections at the Smithsonian, or portrayed in the famous 90’s movies “Dance with the Wolves” and “The last of the Mohicans”. Or, you may think, this happened in a faraway land.
In fact, we are closer today than we have ever been in the history of the Western Civilization to connecting with the stewards of the land, not only those that lived here in Northeast Ohio before us, but also to land stewards who continue to live amongst us. As we seek new practices to sustainably manage our lands, we are curious about who are those stewards. Where, and how, do they live?
In early November I traveled to Mexico to give a presentation about how Agave cultivation connects the people of Mexico through several generations to our ancestral past. I had the opportunity to interact with several students, some of them members of different indigenous tribes from Southern Mexico and Northern Mexico. We discussed their connections and commitment with their communities, and their desires to move forward in implementing sustainable land use in rural Mexico. I felt humbled to have the opportunity to learn from them, while they shared with me their perceptions and ideas of what needs to be done in order to protect their culture and preserve their natural resources. And, many of these reflections I brought back with me to Holden.
As an ecologist and scientist my reflection is this: What will the future of our ecosystems be if we fail to learn that the modern stewards of the land have so many things to offer and teach modern land managers?
As a Mexican, I am one of the sons of Mayahuel the Agave Goddess in the Desert. Now, having moved to Ohio for a Postdoctoral position at the Holden Arboretum, I am a little grafted plant, thriving in a Juniper tree in the Northeast Ohio Forests, at Holden.
What is your connection with the land and with your roots today? Where do you stand today?