This is a film about Relationship as seen
through the eyes of an ecosystem.
Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is rooted in the recognition that all organisms within an ecosystem hold Value. Seen as contributors to an interdependent system, respect and care for all life become the essential keys to finding balance, evolving, and thriving.
At present, we are living in an age afflicted by our disconnects from place, nature, and each other. The symptoms of that are building all around us from climate change to physical, mental, and spiritual imbalances. How do we shift that paradigm?
Enter our unpredicted hero, the beaver!
This film follows the wild work of native practitioners, scientists, restorationists, and fervent “beaver believers”. From the mountains, meadows, and urban streams our hero shows us how it does what it does best. Taking the study further, a variety of camera angles and novel technological ways of seeing allow us to experience unique perspectives of nature and the relationships between our characters and the landscapes changing around them.
Like the weavings of a watershed, the diverse voices in this film find confluence through collaboration with one of Nature’s greatest eco-engineers. The connections, visible and invisible, through scientific proof, eco-cultural relationships, and spiritual significance are clear… Native beaver play an immeasurably valuable role on the health of all species that share a watershed with them, humans included.
These are the voices of trailblazers are not so different from you or I. They remind us by their dedication, collaboration, and reverence to Nature that the answers are living all around us…
"Salmon is a keystone species. As a totem species it’s an indicator. As Luna Leopold would say, the health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. And by extension, we could suggest that the health of our salmon is the principal measure of how we've been living in the watershed... And let's just say the salmon haven't been doing so well."
- Brock Dolman
Exec. Dir of CA Open Lands
Meet Ali Meders-Knight, a badass Mechoopda-Maidu Indian willow-weaver and mother of 5 girls. Ali is a beautiful force of Nature and an unforgettable inspiration to everyone that meets her. She's showing her Chico community how to tend landscapes by emulating nature and collaborating with creatures such as beavers. Ali is trailblazing a new model of community-led workforce built on the foundations of Indigenous Local Traditional Ecological Knowledge (Lo-TEK). Lo-TEK is a season-guided living practice that weaves wild-tending of native plants and watersheds with wild food foraging, medicine-making, and crafts. Her work is shifting the paradigm in California... not only because of what she believes in, but because of who she is as an artist and the hardships & heartbreaks she has overcome. Her model is empowering community politics from the roots up, making traditional ecological stewardship an open-access knowledge-base. People from all walks of life are seen and valued when they become apart of the story of the land.
Meet Kevin Swift, a swashbuckling, self-proclaimed “human representative of the beaver people”. Kevin and his Swiftwater Design crew, a rag-tag group of spunky young folks from Sonoma County, travel the western states for weeks at a time off-grid installing hundreds of low-tech, hard-won, hand-built beaver dams to improve watershed vitality for all. They are a brilliant chosen family bonded by the power of this work and wild way of life, transforming vast landscapes one stream and ecosystem at a time just as the beavers would. Kevin sees the disparities of our current economic, environmental, and spiritual condition as a direct link to our (colonial) history & connection to the land. This work with beavers is a model for restoration and reparation of these disconnects that exemplifies TEK-type thinking. From his perspective knee-deep in creek, "We're regenerating the conditions that create fertility cascades and larger and larger trophic networks... We need to do the same with our local economies and get more people working with simpler tools to spread that money-shed farther as well".
Maidu Summit Consortium Exec. Director
Trina Cunningham is a powerhouse of a woman who carries mountain energy in her speech and in her work. “Healthy water is inseparable from healthy fire,” she says. Trina has lived within her ancestral Mountain Maidu homeland since birth in the area around the Upper Feather River watershed (Northern CA). She is a record-keeper, and has been the women’s yeponi, ceremonial leader, for the annual Bear Dance for the last 25 years, actively involved in the preservation of Mountain Maidu culture - a tribe of over 4,000 people still not federally recognized. Trina guides the oversight of the Maidu Summit Consortium, where stewardship practices such as cultural burning and watershed tending are enhanced with collaborative partnerships such as the OAEC through beaver recruitment at Tasmam Koyom, a 2,325 acre parcel PG&E returned to the Maidu in 2019, a historic moment in CA history.
OAEC Water Institute
Bring Back the Beaver Campaign
Kate Lundquist is the co-director of the Occidental Arts & Ecology's Water Institute & "Bring Back the Beaver" campaign. She & Brock Dolman have been a super team pushing & paving the paperwork trail for the legalization of statewide support for work with native beavers in California since 2009. It is with thanks to Kate & Brock that beavers have been adopted into CA's budget. Kate is also to thank for inspiring partner, Kevin Swift, to quit his day job as an arborist who fells trees and become a transformed beaver mimicry expert. She is a practitioner of traditional skills, a watershed-health educator, and a down-to-earth leading restorationist.
OAEC Water Institute
Bring Back the Beaver Campaign
Brock Dolman has been an eco-literacy advocate and co-founding member of the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center (OAEC) since its inception. He is co-director of the OAEC Water Institute and “Bring Back the Beaver” Campaign. A wordsmith and a jester, Brock is an enchanting library of knowledge to playfully converse with. He will teach you the names of the birds by sound and the stories of the plants growing next to you, and you may deepen your place in connection with the living web. He is an expert in management of healthy watershed systems, and is a high-demand consultant and spokesperson called upon worldwide for his depth of experience and understanding stemming from the roots of TEK-informed restoration practices and Permaculture principles.
Wildlife journalist, Acclaimed author
Ben Goldfarb is renowned amongst Beaver Believers far & wide for his scholarly capacity to reduce mountains of scientific research into digestible, relatable, and exciting material through his humorously charming writing. His book, “Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter”, was winner of the 2019 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award and is a must-read for anyone in understanding the history of America through a necessary study of beaver-built geomorphology. “Eager is the powerful story of how one of the world’s most influential species can help us fight drought, flooding, wildfire, extinction, and climate change — and how we can learn to coexist with our fellow travelers on this planet”. His writings have been featured in a litany of major publications including Nat Geo, The New York Times, Smithsonian, The Guardian, Washington Post, VICE News, and many more.
>> Dr. Emily Fairfax: Ecohydrologist, As. Professor of Environmental Science & Resource Management at CSU Channel Islands
>> Dr. Rupa Marya + son, author of Inflamed: Deep Medicine & the Anatomy of Injustice
>> Molly Alves - Tulalip head biologist of beaver program
>> Holly Reed - Tulalip Assistant Fisheries manager
>> Heidi Perryman - Worth a Dam Director & child psychologist
>> Alexa Whipple - Methow Beaver Project, Project Director
>> Joe Weirich - Methow Beaver Project Restoration Coordinator
>> Maya Khosla - biologist, wildfire & wildlife biodiversity specialist
>> Miranda Bell Tilcock + the UC Davis Water Sciences lab team