Indigenous Landscape Healing

In Fresh Banana Leaves by Jessica Hernandez we finished the book with chapter 7, “Ancestral Foods” and chapter 8, “Indigenizing Conservation” as a way of talking about Indigenous landscape healing.

This was the concluding class for Cultural Ecology 2024, after reading chapters 5 and 6.

Summary: Indigenous Landscape Healing

Romanticization & Reality

In photos of Indigenous women in the Amazon rainforest, one can spot them carrying bananas. Bananas, however, are not native to the Americas. Along with mangoes, they have become traditional crops on small-scale farms that support people’s livelihoods (212). It is crucial not to romanticize Indigenous peoples or assume they are stuck in a timeless past. They continue to evolve and adapt.

Indigenous Markets & Modern Economy

Indigenous markets, such as Otavalo in Ecuador, often cater to tourists by selling modern goods like school backpacks. However, people are weaving their designs into new ways of making a living and participating in the modern economy. Indigenous peoples are part of our present, engaging in activities like planting and selling bananas.

Language Loss & Displacement

Language loss is not just an external problem; it also occurs when people are displaced from their ancestral lands. Many languages, traditions, and cultures are rooted in specific areas, and displacement or climate change can significantly alter them. “As a result of the trauma, coupled with the stigma of being seen as less than for being Indigenous and speaking an Indigenous language, many generations choose to not pass down their languages to the younger generations” (190)

As Hernandez states, “Indigenous peoples, especially those who have been displaced, must undergo a hard journey of healing because displacement, especially forced displacement, is not something we can heal from easily” (238). Support and understanding are needed, but without a savior complex.

Respectful Exploration

While visiting Indigenous communities, it is essential to be aware of the realities on the ground. These places may not always match the picturesque images seen from afar. Many communities rely on tourism for income, but visitors should explore with respect and be mindful of their impact.

The Journey of Healing

The subtitle of the book, Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science, emphasizes the importance of the journey rather than the destination. Healing is not a checklist; it is a process that starts wherever one is and may extend across generations. “When we heal ourselves we heal landscapes, and it is time we create space for Indigenous peoples to heal as we move forward in life” (241). (See also these reflections on Journeys and Wayfinding.)

Invasive Species & Kinship

Invasive species, like English ivy, can be problematic and require removal. However, it is essential to approach this task with mindfulness and respect. The language of “invasiveness” itself can be questionable. Indigenous peoples have created kinship relationships with introduced species like bananas and mangoes, no longer considering them foreign. Descendants of settlers or new migrants can also create new kinship paths respectfully with the people, plants, and animals in their current environment. Hernandez refers to these relationships using terms like “friends” and “displaced relatives” (214).

Becoming Friends & Displaced Relatives

As we engage with the landscape and the beings within it, we have the opportunity to become friends and displaced relatives ourselves. By fostering respectful relationships and understanding, we can contribute to the healing of both Indigenous landscapes and our own connections to the world around us.

Recap: Indigenous Landscape Healing

In Fresh Banana Leaves by Jessica Hernandez we finished the book with chapter 7, “Ancestral Foods” and chapter 8, “Indigenizing Conservation” as a way of talking about Indigenous landscape healing.

This was the concluding class for Cultural Ecology 2024, after reading chapters 5 and 6.


Living Anthropologically means documenting history, interconnection, and power during a time of global transformation. We need to care for others as we attempt to build a world together. This blog is a personal project of Jason Antrosio, author of Fast, Easy, and In Cash: Artisan Hardship and Hope in the Global Economy. For updates, subscribe to the YouTube channel or follow on Twitter.

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