In the 1990s, an invasive beetle called the emerald ash borer (EAB) traveled from Asia to Michigan inadvertently concealed inside wooden packing crates used for international cargo shipments. When the beetle's presence was confirmed in 2002, regional infestations were already well established. For many northeastern American Indian communities, black ash basketry is a significant component of a self-conscious cultural identity. Because EAB has the potential to decimate North America's ash trees, this activity is now in jeopardy. This article explores how Native communities are making cultural sense of EAB and its effects. As they search for ways to cope with this exotic insect, tribal artisans and natural resource managers are indigenizing modern scientific management paradigms in ways that reflect traditional understandings of the natural world and their integral relationships within it. Perceived and politicized as very different relationships with the natural world, “modernity” is now being put to strategic “traditional” uses.
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