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Roots of Wisdom: Native knowledge, shared science

Now on display in the Armacost Library is the traveling exhibition Roots of Wisdom: Native Knowledge, Shared Science, which examines how Indigenous knowledge and cutting-edge science can be used together to address environmental and health challenges. (Photo by Coco McKown ’04, ’10)

On Friday, December 17, University of Redlands Native Student Programs and Armacost Library on the main Redlands campus welcomed visitors to the opening reception of Roots of Wisdom: Native Knowledge, Shared Science. The traveling exhibition examines how the complementary application of Indigenous knowledge and cutting-edge science can address environmental and health challenges.

Director of Native Student Programs Nora Pulskamp said that bringing Roots of Wisdom to the U of R represents an appreciation for the knowledge Native peoples hold sacred and a recognition of its importance in achieving environmental balance: “Indigenous people have carried and cared for this knowledge for generations in spite of systems of colonialism and capitalism. The world is now facing the consequences of these systems that created environmental imbalance, and Indigenous knowledge is finally being valued as a way to address these imbalances.”

“We're really excited to be able to host this exhibit,” added Arts and Electronic Resources Librarian Sanjeet Mann, who thanked fellow library staff, including Tech Services Supervisor Trisha Aurelio, for their contributions to the show. “I think that the exhibit speaks really well to the nature of knowledge as being embodied and embedded in communities and in traditions.”

Through four inspiring stories, Roots of Wisdom presents examples of how traditional ecologic knowledge—the understanding imparted through the ways of Indigenous life for generations—can be synthesized with a contemporary scientific perspective to inspire environmental and cultural restoration. The five-year collaboration included Native community partners from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Tulalip Tribes, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and Native Hawaiians to ensure that unique, diverse, and authentic voices were heard.

“The Roots of Wisdom exhibit is an important opportunity for the University of Redlands community to learn about modern-day Native scientific and cultural advances from across the United States,” said Assistant Director for Native Student Programs Elizabeth Shulterbrandt. “Our Native students and San Manuel scholars can take pride in seeing achievements from their own, and other, Native Nations.”

The exhibition’s stories include tribal efforts to: restore streams and wildlife that provide water, transportation, and sacred foods; reestablish river cane to help revitalize ecosystems and cultural traditions; restore fish ponds in ahupua'a—land sections extending from the mountains to the ocean in Hawaii—that can supply sustainable food sources; and reconnect food and plants used in traditional medicine for culturally appropriate health care.

Roots of Wisdom is scheduled to be on view in Armacost Library through February 27. For more information about the traveling exhibition, visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry website.

The University of Redlands sits on the unceded, sovereign homelands of the Cahuilla and Yuhaaviatam (Serrano) peoples. Learn more about Native Student Programs and the Armacost Library at the University of Redlands.