It was not gold that brought the first White men into the Rocky Mountain west, but rather, the golden brown fur of the humble and industrious, eco-system-building beaver.
During the 19th century a beaver skin top hat was an essential article of dress for gentlemen in Europe and America’s growing eastern cities. Beavers were trapped by the thousands for their valuable pelts.
The trappers and mountain men who trapped the beaver were a different sort of White men than the settlers who came later. Not only were they not interested in “civilizing” the Indians, but frequently became “indigenized” themselves intermarrying with the tribes leaving behind names such as, Janis, Primeaux and Battise on modern-day reservations.
The beaver is a “keystone” species, a species that plays a critical role in shaping the environment on which many other species depend and over hunting them radically changed Western eco-systems. Beavers are capable of taking down large trees which they use to build their dams and lodges.
By damming rivers and streams the beaver creates its own environment, ponds that allow the beaver to escape from predators, as well as providing habitat opportunities for numerous other species.
However, the destruction of trees has also made the beaver very unpopular with land owner and managers and has often become a reason for destroying or relocating the beavers.
The Indians participated in trapping and trading of beaver pelts but also appreciated the beaver’s inherent value. Native people refer to the “medicine” of each animal, unique attributes, verging on the supernatural, that can be obtained and emulated by human beings.
According to author, Jamie Sam’s in The Sacred Path Cards:
“Beaver is the doer in the animal kingdom. Beaver medicine is akin to water and earth energy and incorporates a strong sense of family and home. If you were to look at the dams that block woodland streams, you would find several entrances and exits. In building its home, Beaver always leaves itself many alternative escape routes. This practice is a lesson to all of us not to paint ourselves into corners. If we eliminate our alternatives, we dam the flow of experience in our lives.”
If you really like beavers and want to learn more about them, you could attend the Crestone BeaverFest 2012: March 3rd – March 5th.
The purpose of this event is to highlight the importance of the beaver as a keystone species in our local ecosystems. Over the last hundred plus years, many beavers have been trapped out of this area, and the associated ecosystems have diminished in biodiversity and varied habitats because of their absence.
This event will look at how humans and beaver can partner to create healthier, more diverse and more resilient ecosystems.
March 3rd at 7:30 pm: Welcome to BeaverFest 2012. Showing of films: Partnering with Beaver to Restore Riparian Areas
March 4th, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm: “Beaver Medicine” with Láné Saán Moonwalker
March 5th, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm: “Working with Beaver for Better Habitat Naturally” with Sherri Tippie
March 5th, 2:00pm – 5:00 pm: Roundtable discussion: Restoring Beaver populations in the Crestone area with Láné Saán Moonwalker and Sherri Tippie – for more information http://www.crestonehealers.com/classes–events.html
Editor: Brianna Bemel