John Muir was an early proponent of a view still held today—that much of California was pristine, untouched wilderness before the arrival of Europeans. But as this groundbreaking book demonstrates, what Muir was really seeing when he admired the grand vistas of Yosemite and the gold and purple flowers carpeting the Central Valley were the fertile gardens of the Sierra Miwok and Valley Yokuts Indians, modified and made productive by centuries of harvesting, tilling, sowing, pruning, and burning. Marvelously detailed and beautifully written, Tending the Wild is an unparalleled examination of Native American knowledge and uses of California’s natural resources that reshapes our understanding of native cultures and shows how we might begin to use their knowledge in our own conservation efforts.
M. Kat Anderson presents a wealth of information on native land management practices gleaned in part from interviews and correspondence with Native Americans who recall what their grandparents told them about how and when areas were burned, which plants were eaten and which were used for basketry, and how plants were tended. The complex picture that emerges from this and other historical source material dispels the hunter-gatherer stereotype long perpetuated in anthropological and historical literature. We come to see California’s indigenous people as active agents of environmental change and stewardship. Tending the Wild persuasively argues that this traditional ecological knowledge is essential if we are to successfully meet the challenge of living sustainably.
Kat Anderson is a Lecturer in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California, Davis; Associate Ecologist at the Agricultural Experimental Station at the University of California, Davis; and a faculty member in the Graduate Group in Ecology at the University of California, Davis. She is coeditor, with T. C. Blackburn, of Before the Wilderness: Native Californians as Environmental Managers (1993) and coeditor, with Henry T. Lewis, of Forgotten Fires: Native Americans and the Transient Wilderness by Omer C. Stewart (2002).
“Highly readable and compelling prose, readily accessible to a general audience. With frequent references to cultures in other parts of North America and beyond, the book is valuable to people in any region, every one of which could probably produce its own Tending the Wild.”—Orion
“This lavishly detailed and accessible book presents a wealth of information about traditional Native American land management in California. Anderson completed extensive research for this book including interviews and correspondence with Native American descendants who recalled relevant, traditional practices of their grandparents. One important outcome is that well-entrenched myths are dispelled.”—Environmental History
“M. Kat Anderson’s book Tending the Wild is an excellent contribution to expanding the current paradigm of land use and land cover change with her comprehensive review of how Native Americans shaped California’s historic and contemporary landscapes. . . . This well-written volume is full of wonderful details about how different tribes used plants in California’s ecogions; from the coast to the forests to the deserts.”—Landscape Ecology
“This fascinating book is rich with information and beautifully written for a broad audience of both laypeople and professionals.”—Bay Nature
“Anderson’s book represents one of the high points in a marked scholarly reappraisal of native Californians and the worlds they lived in prior to and after colonization.”—Boom California
“Kat Anderson writes beautifully, conveying awareness, insight, and wisdom, without preaching or posturing. A remarkable compendium of practical knowledge, her book includes many reproductions of rare maps and photographs of native people going about their daily lives.”—Pacific Horticulture
“Anderson presents a wealth of detailed information on native land management practices. . . . [a] highly readable book.”—American Herb Association Newsletter
“This is a highly significant—one might argue revolutionary—book. It, and the author’s previous research, has the potential to completely change the way western land managers relate to the land and the resources they are trying to regulate. Even more, it has the power to influence the way that all of us approach Nature and will reinforce the importance of Native Americans and the sophistication of their knowledge.”—Nancy J. Turner, University of Victoria
“Tending the Wild is an enormously rich and highly readable text on the remarkably diverse land management techniques practiced by California Indians over millennia. This book serves as an invaluable resource as we strive to conserve California’s enormous cultural and biotic heritage in the new century. A triumph!”—Michael H. Horn, California State University Fullerton
“Tending the Wild supports the little know fact that Indian groups in California historically practiced a kind of “environmental bonsai” through their centuries long management activities. Kat Anderson’s work is timely and will make an important contribution toward a better understanding of the historic ecologies of North America.”—Greg Cajete, University of New Mexico