For hundreds of years, Pueblo people — living in what’s now New Mexico — have gathered plants, nuts, and berries from local pine and juniper forests to use in traditional ceremonies.
Raymond Martinez is the director of the Pueblo de San Ildefonso’s Department of Environmental and Cultural Preservation.
“Everything has a meaning to us as a Pueblo people,” he says. “There are certain plant species that you use during certain times of the year. They mean different things during a ceremony.”
But he says local conifer forests are threatened.
Scientists expect warming temperatures and drought to kill trees on a huge scale across the region.
So Martinez says that within decades, some plants used in traditional ceremonies may become locally extinct or extremely scarce.
He says Pueblo members have started talking with leaders about whether other plants could be used as substitutes and how to maintain cultural practices.
“And now that we’re seeing those changes, those are the questions we need answered,” he says. “It’s a hard conversation that we are progressing in. It’s good, though, that we are getting our traditional leaders to think about those things right now because we’ve always thought our resources are going to be here for us forever.”
But these cultural resources are increasingly threatened as the world warms.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media