Earth Notes: Restoration and Traditional Knowledge

Oct 11, 2017

Ka-Voka Jackson’s college career began with a science scholarship from the Hualapai Tribe.  Now she’s a master’s student in restoration ecology at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Glen Canyon restoration crew
Credit Ka-Voka Jackson

Ka-Voka is doing research that bridges western science with traditional ecological knowledge from her tribe—work that’s in keeping with her mother’s lifelong efforts to promote Hualapai culture.

Ka-Voka’s experiments tackle invasive, nonnative plants in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, to the east of her tribal lands. Ravenna grass is a main target of her efforts. This twelve-foot-tall, sharp-leaved, tufted grass crowds out native plants along stream bottoms. It also invades seep-drenched alcoves that harbor sensitive plants. Ka-Voka is also tackling invasive bromes like cheatgrass on drier, upland slopes, which could carry fire into archaeological sites.

The first step is weeding out the invaders. Ka-Voka then draws on both restoration science and traditional Hualapai knowledge for replacement species. The best candidates grow nearby, transplant easily, and have cultural importance.

For example, she’s replacing ravenna grass with willow baccharis, a hardy native favored by butterflies, bees, and goldfinches. The Hualapai used its leaves on bruises, and the straight, strong branches for basketry, arrowshafts, rooftop material, and brooms.

Ka-Voka Jackson is sharing her growing knowledge with Native American interns and other youth—her way of giving back to her tribe and perhaps kindling innovative restoration of desert lands in the Southwest.