Medicine Wheel for the Planet: A Journey Toward Personal and Ecological Healing
A personal journey of bringing together Western science and Indigenous ecology to transform our understanding of the human role in healing our planet
I used to be an ecologist. . . . Now, I am a community gatherer, working to help bring healing beyond just the land. I am a story-listener. I am a storyteller. I am a shaper of ecosystems. I work on bringing communities together, in circle, to listen to each other.
A farm kid at heart, and a Nlaka’pamux woman of mixed ancestry, Dr. Jennifer Grenz always felt a deep connection to the land. However, after nearly two decades of working as a restoration ecologist in the Pacific Northwest, she became frustrated that despite the best efforts of her colleagues and numerous volunteers, they weren’t making the meaningful change needed for plant, animal, and human communities to adapt to a warming climate. Restoration ecology is grounded in an idea that we must return the natural world to an untouched, pristine state, placing humans in a godlike role—a notion at odds with Indigenous histories of purposeful, reciprocal interaction with the environment. This disconnect sent Dr. Grenz on a personal journey of joining her head (Western science) and her heart (Indigenous worldview) to find a truer path toward ecological healing.
In Medicine Wheel for the Planet, building on sacred stories, field observations, and her own journey, Dr. Grenz invites readers to share in the teachings of the four directions of the medicine wheel: the North, which draws upon the knowledge and wisdom of elders; the East, where we let go of colonial narratives and see with fresh eyes; the South, where we apply new-old worldviews to envision a way forward; and the West, where a relational approach to land reconciliation is realized.
Eloquent, inspiring, and disruptive, Medicine Wheel for the Planet circles around an argument that we need more than a singular worldview to protect the planet and make the significant changes we are running out of time for.
Dr. Jennifer Grenz (Nlaka’pamux mixed ancestry) is an Indigenous ecologist and scholar with a PhD in Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems. She is assistant professor in both the Faculty of Forestry and the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia, and she has traveled extensively across North America presenting keynote lectures on invasive species management issues, environmental policy, and effective environmental communication strategies to different professional organizations and government agencies.