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Gentrifying the forest

Every few months we read about another parcel of land being sacrificed for housing. The planned destruction of the forest near Evergreen and the ten acres of “non-forested” land at LBA Woods are recent examples and more will follow.

Indigenous people have a different way of seeing the natural world. In my tradition, Ojibwa, we see trees and rocks and insects as alive, and like indigenous people, they belong to this land. When we are young we are told to get to know a single tree in the forest. Later when we are older we are placed blindfolded in the forest and asked to find the tree again, the same one we once knew. This special relationship with the tree is lost today.

The Ojibwa were displaced and slaughtered because they did not fit into the “white” world, much like what is happening with the destruction of the forest. If developers saw the trees as people, would they approach forests in the same way they do now, as clutter or garbage to be cleared to make way for “progress” or as commodities to be cut down and sold?

The gentrification of the forest to make way for standard European monoculture is a daily trauma for native people. This genocide of the living continues so colonizers can have their own safe space. The diversity and uniqueness and aliveness becomes dead and hollow, a boring samehood. From dead spaces come unimaginative minds, a carceral kind of boredom and control.

Joseph Enfield is a member of the Canadian Ojibwa tribe. He attended The Evergreen State College, and has studied with a Tlingit medicine man. He currently works as a water protector near Tacoma.

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