Native spiritual practices have always been about land. Today, First Nations groups in Canada and the US are engaged in significant political, cultural, and spiritual work to reclaim ancestral lands and their traditional roles as land guardians. At a time of profound climate disruption and converging crises, First Nations leaders are asserting and renewing their sacred relationships with other-than-human kin like totem animals and elements like water and fire. The revitalization of land guardianship roles and practices is often characterized as protecting the medicines of the land so that they can continue to give life to all of creation. This movement is a claim to territorial and spiritual sovereignty.
Melissa K. Nelson is an ecologist and Indigenous scholar-activist. She earned her Ph.D. in ecology at the University of California, Davis. Formerly a professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University, she is now a Professor of Indigenous Sustainability at Arizona State University in the Global Futures Laboratory. She is a contributor and co-editor of Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Learning from Indigenous Practices for Environmental Sustainability (2018). She is Turtle Mountain Anishinaabe/Métis.