UBC Reports | Vol.
51 | No. 5 |
May 5, 2005
Tapping Ancient Wisdom for a Sustainable Future
Cree grad combines science with ancient ecological knowledge
By Brian Lin
When Zane Young finished high school, his parents gave him
a plane ticket and luggage as graduation presents. They then
told him to either get a job or go to university.
The avid surfer chose the latter -- encouraged by his family
and lured by the mountains, the coast, the city, and UBC.
So began an educational journey that would bring him back
to his roots.
Graduating this spring from the Department of Global Resource
Systems in the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Young says
the experience solidified his conviction to work with indigenous
communities around the world in creating sustainable food
systems by combining traditional ecological knowledge and
“First Peoples have always managed the land in ways
that ensured sustainability, and their knowledge is embodied
in the language,” says Young. “In my tradition,
as the Cree language got passed on orally from generation
to generation, so did the knowledge of how our ancestors integrated
plants, animals, peoples, places and values into their daily
“Those practices are becoming more relevant than ever
in today’s world,” says Young, who credits his
parents for inspiring him to dream and reach high.
“They insisted on making education their means to
‘make it’ in the world, despite the excruciating
effects of residential school,” Young says. “They
supported each other through their master’s degrees
and my mother supported my dad through medical school.”
Already accepted for graduate studies at UBC, Young is spending
this summer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to
complete an apprenticeship in ecological horticulture, and
realizes that he, too, has become a role model.
“I helped organize the second UBC Summer Forestry
Camp for First Nations Youth last year and spent a week with
young First Nations students from across British Columbia
who are considering post-secondary education,” says
“I told them honestly what challenges await them in
university, but I also told them how rewarding the experience
would ultimately be -- it’s life-changing.”