Hear that crunching? That’s the sound of my mental state. It’s me stepping through tribulus terrestris, the plant that produces the reviled ‘goathead’ thorns that have made countless punctures in my tubes these past 48 hours. I’m pedaling through a mine field of them. Local cyclists line their tires with a special plastic. I didn’t have any such protection. This morning, I biked for 5 minutes before I got my first flat and found 3 goat head punctures. I tried to take these setbacks as a chance to be equanimous, but at a few points I definitely felt the frustration get the best of me.
Despite these setbacks, Toppenish was an inspired stop. It is a city in the Yakama Nation. I went to their cultural center where I met Deedrah who recommended a great spot to plant milkweed by a wildlife refuge. She also wanted to participant in the project so I gave her a bunch of seeds. Thanks Deedrah!
At the cultural center museum, I perused through informational pamphlets and a series of dioramas on display. Stories about the Yakama people and their relation to the natural world – how they use native plants for food and medicine and how a big part of their diet used to be salmon, which they would catch with spears and nets. This ecosystem has seen radical disturbance. The Yakama people lost their main salmon fishery and religious site, Celilo Falls, to the Dalles Dam in the 1950’s. Now in their reservation, sprawling apple orchards have refigured the plant life in the area. Many plants have been entirely wiped out and others — plants like dogbane who would traditionally be used to make rope and medicine — are now considered to be a noxious weed by farmers (often non-indigenous people who have purchased land in the Yakama Nation). Tribal members are actively working to restore and preserve these native plants and their ways of using them (Ferolito 2009). Researching this was a lesson in how colonialism continues to morph these landscapes. Sowing native seeds like milkweed is for the monarch’s flourishing and to me, it’s also an act of casting a lot for a decolonized future.