Michael Khus, member of Coastal Band of Chumash Nation and affiliate of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, speaking at the SLO Beaver Brigade Fundraiser , Feb 3rd 2023, Castoro Cellars, in addition to the first annual Beaver Festival on April 1st, 2023. Photo by Brittany App.
Haku. Haku to the Beaver Brigade. Haku to all of you who came here to enjoy this festival, today. Thank you for inviting me to share this Beaver Festival.
I have been provided a lot of information about Beaver by the good people of the Beaver Brigade. For instance: Beaver’s habitat has been invaded and degraded by developers and ranchers; the government permits Beaver to be hunted and “eradicated” as a pest; biologist- scientists define Beaver as belonging to the “lower rodent” family/species; that skeptics believe that Beaver is “extinct” or likely never even lived in SLO county.
Allow me to briefly remind you, that it is also historical fact that California Indians were also invaded, our natural food sources and environment degraded or destroyed, and yes … we were defined by Euro-American science as a lesser species; the first governor of California called on soldier-militias to “exterminate” the native population. Local textbooks once taught children that Indians were “extinct”, and that their culture was worthless. Just like Beaver pelts have had a bounty on them… so too, not so long ago, did California Indian scalps.
Sounds like Beaver has much in common with nineteenth century California Indians.
My family and I are living proof that Chumash people are resilient and have survived ! With a little help, more Beaver can be returned to her rightful place in our landscape. Indians were never extinct from this land, and neither was Beaver – our songs and stories about Beaver are evidence of that.
You can make what passes for pragmatic or scientific reasons and arguments for Beaver’s revival in SLO county – that’s fine, if that’s what works. Stuff like, Beaver can preserve water or add bio-diversity to barren landscapes. These arguments may reach many people and even some skeptics.
But understand: Beaver is a unique, living creature that Grandfather Creator placed upon Hutash Mother Earth. Beaver has a right to live … to live here … And that, if you are a moral person and lover of a just and fair world, should be reason enough for a Beaver Revival.
It is not my style to make the scientific arguments that researchers like Emily are making. The rationale that I make for a Beaver Revival is spirit-driven, not data-driven. That is, our neighborhood, and our world beyond isn’t whole or complete without Beaver or for that matter, without the endangered Monarch, or migrating birds, or all of other native animals and plants.
The human spirit is impoverished and incomplete, without native bird-song, without cresting whales, without yelping coyotes at nightfall or without Beaver flapping his tail on pond-water. The human spirit, the well-being of our soul needs these animals – we feel better and are happier when they co-exist in our neighborhoods and near our homes.