Sustaining the Forest, The People, and The Spirit

Feb 15th, 2001 | By | Category: 12-3: How to Build a Dream, Media Reviews

SUSTAINING THE FOREST COVERby Thomas Davis
State University of New York Press
2000, 238 pages

Review by Lori Colomeda, Ph.D., Salish Kootenai College

Sustaining The Forest, The People, and The Spirit is a timely piece in light of recent fires that have consumed many western forests during the summer of 2000.  As Davis suggests, the Menominee forest is unique since it is productive and continues to sustain itself  as a forest, even though trees are harvested.

For the past seven generations, the Menominee Nation has sustained its 230,000-acre forest in the traditional way, a way that has enhanced rather than destroyed the trees.  The Menominee forest continues to have the tallest tress in the Great Lakes Region while the surrounding area show effects of western forest practices such as shorter trees and less diversity.

Many species of trees are found in the Menominee forest, among them hemlock, aspen, yellow birch, hickory, ash, beech, red maple, white pines, and pin oak.  Ferns, such as maiden hair and shield ferns, find their specific niche on the shady forest floor.  Foods for animals such as blueberry and wild lily of the valley also abound. It is not hard to imagine the magical beauty of the Menominee forest as the earth cycles through the seasons.  It seems a powerful place. Davis says, “At the heart of Menominee sustainability are the cultural, spiritual, and ethical beliefs of the Menominee people and the historical events that shaped these beliefs.”

Interesting to the non-forester is the history of the forest and the practice of traditional Menominee science and technology.  Providing fascinating cultural and historical information, Davis is competent in his analysis of the Menominee model and provides interesting charts, tables, and graphic illustrations on how the Menominee manage this treasured resource.  However, interspersed among the “hard data” Davis softens his work with fascinating cultural stories and vignettes of Menominee life in pre-contact days.

This impressive work has something for everyone, historians, foresters, environmental scientists, and the layperson interested in Menominee culture. For tribal college educators, incorporating culture is a major component of all courses. Tom Davis gives us a gift of culture in a concise 238 pages.  Here, instructors can “harvest” cultural and ecological information for integration into ecology and forestry courses.

“….and the trees will last forever.”

Tom Davis worked at the College of the Menominee Nation when he wrote this book. Lori Colomeda is an environmental education instructor at Salish Kootenai College.

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