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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 Western science.

“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 lives.

“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 Young.

“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.”

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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