[Daily Bruin] UCLA-hosted conference spotlights Indigenous ecology, ephemeral architecture

UCLA community members are joining scholars across the country to help highlight Indigenous architectural knowledge throughout the American continent in an annual program.

The Forgotten Canopy – a series of conferences under The Center for 17th- and 18th-Century Studies’ Core Program – held its first summit from Nov. 4 through Nov. 5 at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, discussing how colonial actions impact Indigenous communities and their ecological practices. According to its website, the series hosts community-based workshops and panels to analyze the interconnectivity of adaptive architecture, the environment, and creativity across the Atlantic region during the 16th to 19th centuries.

The first workshop, “Ecology,” featured a tour of UCLA’s Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden in which participants witnessed the effort to transform landscapes by restoring the planting of local flora.

Students at the workshop also identified various plants used by Indigenous people and people in the Americas to build various structures, said Stella Nair, an associate professor of art history and American Indian studies who helped organize the event alongside faculty from Florida State University. These plants were vital to creating ephemeral architecture, which are constructions that have temporary life spans but can carry specific and sometimes cultural techniques, such as thatching, she added.

“It (ephemeral architecture) is not something that architecture scholarship tends to emphasize; it emphasizes the monumental and the permanent,” Nair said. “These things are deeply embedded in ecological practices and change and also very much impacted by imperial practices.”

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