On this edition of the show Don’t Call Me Resilient, we examine the intricate gardening roots and who is allowed the right to plant. We also share practical advice regarding what you can grow with attention to Indigenous knowledge. We talk to the researcher Jacqueline L. Scott and also speak to the activist for the community, Carolynne Crawley, who teaches workshops that incorporate Indigenous knowledge into practical application.
Watercolor illustration of Tulipa sylvestris in I Cinque libri di piante. Pietro Antonio Michiel, Venice ca. 1550-1576, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.
The most sought-after tulips
Many of the most well-known plants in the world today, such as the tulips, are the result of the early colonial conquers. They were first discovered growing wild in the valleys that are where China, as well as Tibet, joined Afghanistan and Russia. The first tulips were planted in Istanbul in the year 1055.
After they were hybridized and later commodified by the Dutch, they were able to become very sought-after status symbols due to the beauty of their beautiful yet fragile flowers.
Botanical explorations undertaken of colonies by European powers were a key element in the expansion of the empire. These excursions fueled the massive business of collecting samples of plants from around the world and led to the development of botany as an academic discipline.
Two hundred twenty-seven illustrations of anatomical segments with descriptive text. Botany. Anatomy of the plant. Plant morphology. Plants. Roots (Botany). Roots (Botany) – Morphology. Roots (Botany) – Anatomy. Rootstocks. Tubers. Leaves. Leaves – Morphology. Flowers – Morphology. Flowers. Fruit – Morphology. Bulbs (Plant anatomy). Plants – Variation. Botany – France. Stems (Botany). CC BY-NC
Botanical gardens were used as laboratories.
Botanical gardens played an important function, acting as a laboratory where specimens of plant life were arranged, arranged, and identified. “Scientific objectivity” declared the Eurocentric viewpoint displaces and disrupts Indigenous Knowledge and ecological practices.
An illustration from 1913 of African American people picking cotton. Jerome H. Farbar: ‘Houston: Where Seventeen Railroads Meet the Sea.’ Page 31/40, ‘Cotton Pickers,’ CC BY
The transfer and movement of plants across the globe were in conjunction with the transport of people to create a labor force via slavery and indentured servitude.
The plantation system wiped out local ecosystems and replaced traditional farming methods with cash crops such as sugar cane, tea, and cotton. These were products intended to be used for European markets, curiosities, and profits, not the local people.
Hierarchies of plant and race
This colonial method of organizing the agricultural sector established the foundation for classifying individuals in the same way, creating a social structure that dehumanized non-Europeans and helped to justify slavery as well as Indigenous genocide and racial classifications.
This has shaped our present relationships with the land as well as our gardens. It also influences our beliefs about access to land and ownership of the land, who is entitled to be able to take pleasure in the landscape, and who should take care of it. Who owns the space, both literal and metaphorical, and the right to cultivate?