New ‘Cascadia’ Field Guide will use Indigenous Classification rather than Western Taxonomy

In the first ever ‘Cascadia’ field guide, local experts, poets and artists are working to create a literary field guide for the Cascadia bioregion. This area is defined by the watersheds of the Fraser, Columbia and Snake rivers, and stretches from Mt. St. Alias in the north, to Cape Mendocino in the south, and as far as Yellowstone in the East.

The guide will use kinship clusters, and other Indigenous forms of classification, rather than western taxonomy. Ernestine Hayes, who is a Tlingit professor and author in Juneau, recommended using an Indigenous way of categorizing the field guide, rather than a western taxonomy, which divides things by Insect, Bird, and so on. Instead it will use ‘Kinship Clusters’, divided into group of 7-10 species which share relationships with each other, and rely on each other to survive.

“Ponderosa Pine” by Lyndsey Nichols. This submitted sketch is one of the illustrations expected to be included in a forthcoming literary field guide for the Cascadia Bioregion (Lyndsey Nichols/Haida Gwaii Observer)

One example of the Kinship cluster will be the Salish Sea, a shared ecoregion between Washington and British Columbia with a highly interconnected and interdependent web of life. Each area will also include range, natural history, and poems to go with it, as well as art and sketches.

In this interview by Karissa Gall with the Haida Gwaii Observer, writer and naturalist Elizabeth Bradfield says her “origins and heart home are in the Pacific Northwest,”. She is working part-time with poetry editor Derek Sheffield and former Alaska State Writer Laureate Ernestine Hayes on the project.

“Because what field guides can’t really do is speak to the heart, so we want this field guide to do that as well,” Bradfield said. Ultimately, the book is meant to be affordable, useable, and something that can be taken as people journey and learn from area to area. In the article by Haida Gwaii Obverver, Bradfield said it was important to credit David McCloskey, the Seattle University sociology professor who popularized the idea of “Cascadia” as a bioregion.

For those not familiar, a bioregion is an area defined by natural borders and the culture that stems from them, as opposed to arbitrary human made lines on a map.

For the full article, check out this piece in the Haida Gwaii Observer

Featured Image Photo Credit: Drew Brayshaw . Misty Morning, Haida Gwaii. Shomar Creek on Moresby Island. Creative Commons 2.0

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