Cultural Implication of the Emerald Ash Borer in Tyendinaga

Since its’ introduction into North America, “The beetle attacks and kills all native species of ash and is estimated to have killed as many as 100 million ash trees in Southern Ontario, Michigan and surrounding areas,” as stated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).


The beetle has gotten the attention of Nicole Storm, Tyendinaga band member, and has raised questions about its impact on Haudenosaunee culture.  The Emerald Ash may not have made Tyendinaga’s Species at Risk “endangered” list like the Butternut (Juglan Cinerea), but Nicole Storm, Tyendinaga band member, is becoming concerned. Storm said, “I am just trying to educate people right now and make them aware…it’s not too late.”

Storm’s concern for the ash tree arises from an understanding of how important they are to our Haudenosaunee culture. Nick Reo, American Indian Liaison with Michigan State University Extension writes, “These [Ash] trees have been historically and are currently relied upon for multiple uses, most notable the use of black ash (Fraxinus nigra) wood splints by traditional basket makers.” He goes on to write, “[Ash trees are used] in the construction of many different items including, but not limited to, baskets, snowshoes, hunting and fishing decoys and canoe paddles.”

The United States Department of Agriculture (USADA) provides telltale signs of an ash tree that has been infected. Symptoms of an infected tree will be noticeable with the S-shaped tunnels made by the EAB larvae, and D-shaped exit holes in tree. The USADA also recommends removal of the tree if it has been infected.

Perhaps one of the most noted symptoms includes, “dead branches near the top of a tree.”  The significance of trees dying from the top down is mentioned in the Kayanere’kowa. Tehawennahkwa Miller, Kanyen’keha speaker, says one of the prophecies in the Kayanere’kowa is the trees dying from the top down.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) literature asserts the first sighting of the EAB was in the Windsor/Detroit area back in 2002. Now they can be found spreading across, Southern Ontario, Michigan, New York and Quebec.

CFIA website believes they arrived in North America in wood packaging or some other crating material, therefore, CFIA, “has issued a ministerial order to prohibit movement of firewood, and ash-tree products such as nursery stock, logs, branches and wood chips from areas of Ottawa and Gatineau to any other surrounding regions to limit the spread…,” on the Ottawa website.

If you have spotted an infected tree in your area please call the Canadian Food Inspection Agency toll free at 1-866-463-6017.

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