In 2021, the Sustainability Office will be reviving an old Ecologue series- highlighting Alumni who were involved with sustainability during their time at OSU. Meet Brandon Larrabee, a 2019 graduate in Geology with a certificate in Geographic Information Systems. With the GIS certificate, Brandon has been able to use mapping technology to support his Tribe’s agricultural systems and collect wildfire data on Tribal land.
During his time at OSU:
Brandon got his associates degree at the Oregon Coast Community College, where he first became interested in geology. He saw geology as a way to look into history and understand what was happening in the Earth throughout time. After transferring to OSU from the Oregon Coast Community College, Brandon originally felt out of place and experienced imposter syndrome. But after discovering the Native American Longhouse Eena Haws and spending more time with OSU’s Indigenous community, he began to feel more at home.
Brandon also served as the Vice President of Geosciences Club, and helped organize a club trip to Argentina! One of the biggest challenges of this trip was figuring out how to offset the club’s carbon emissions from flying. He worked with several other students to research and calculate the offsets, allowing for net-zero emissions over the twelve day trip.
Since graduating, Brandon has interned with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and worked on their Healthy Traditions Program to restore first food networks. First foods are those that have sustained Native people for generations, providing sustenance, health, and culture. His work included collecting camas seeds and yampa as well as growing traditional weaving materials. He also applied his GIS knowledge to map the land and improve decision making about planting and watering.
Brandon says first food is about more than just food. It’s about relearning Indigenous identity, re-establishing community, and healing generational trauma. Through cultivating first foods, his people create a stronger connection to the Earth and practice stewardship over the land.
From an early age, Brandon was instilled with the value of giving back to Earth. He remembers watching his great-grandmother dig roots and weave baskets, always replacing the earth and returning things to how they were. She cultivated a relationship of mutual benefit: she provided stewardship and protection to the land in return for its natural gifts. Indigenous people in the Willamette Valley have been practicing this stewardship for over 12,000 years.
With such a strong relationship with the land, it was apparent to Brandon when things began to change. Growing up near a river, he noticed the salmon populations dwindle and the river’s health decline. Seasons began to change and grow shorter, and basket materials became more scarce. Brandon says that these changes make it harder for Indigenous people to continue their relationship with the land, which is a key aspect of their identities.
In the future, Brandon wants to see land management practices change on a national scale, with more land being given back to Indigenous communities. He believes that moving back to the land management techniques employed by Indigenous people for thousands of years would benefit the whole country. On a more personal scale, he wants to see his Tribe returning to their traditional diet, which would improve not only their physical health, but also their emotional, spiritual, and cultural wellbeing.
In Brandon’s words, “Just like it’s the parents responsibility to give their child a better life than they had, it is all of our responsibility as humans to create and cultivate a more sustainable planet for the future.”
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, Brandon! We love to see OSU Alumni engaging with their communities in meaningful ways.
Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, is located within the traditional homelands of the Mary’s River or Ampinefu Band of Kalapuya. Following the Willamette Valley Treaty of 1855, Kalapuya people were forcibly removed to reservations in Western Oregon. Today, living descendants of these people are a part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community of Oregon (grandronde.org) and the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians (ctsi.nsn.us).
CATEGORIES: Alumni Profiles Food Native Tribes