Skip to main content

Animals, Plants, and Us

A brown fox lays on the ground, enclosed in a pen by a wire fence, with a blue water bowl.
A swift fox is reintroduced to the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation by the Assiniboine (Nakoda) and Gros Ventre (Aaniiih) Tribes of Fort Belknap and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
Photo by Wes Overvold, Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute
A green silt textile, arranged underneath a pineapple and five white silkworm coccoons.
Pineapple can be used as an alternate fiber in making textiles for clothing.
Photo courtesy of Around the World in 80 Fabrics
A person in shiny, ornate gold and turquoise blouse, adorned with bead necklaces, smiles, holding up a jar of honey. A vast plan extends behind them.
A Maasai woman shows off the results of the Maa Honey program, a community beekeeping social enterprise with the Maa Trust.
Photo courtesy of the Maa Trust
An elephant walks through a green prairie, looking straight at the camera.
The Masai Mara in Kenya is home to a population of approximately 2,500 elephants
Photo courtesy of the Maa Trust

People are part of the ecosystem. Humans must live in harmony with nature to sustain a healthy world. For centuries, people have been living with and deriving resources from the animals and plants that share their landscapes. At the 2022 Folklife Festival, visitors discovered how we can reset the balance between people and nature by creating spaces in which everyone can thrive.

How are innovative conservation programs helping people and wildlife? How is traditional knowledge being incorporated into sustainable living for animals, plants, and us?

We engaged with community members from Kenya’s Maasai Mara region, who are working with scientists on innovative research about how wildlife moves across the landscape and helping community conservation initiatives align with the needs and values of the people who live alongside them.

Vistors learned from members of the Nakoda and Aaniiih nations of the Great Plains, who are collaborating with researchers to restore their lands and reclaiming cultural practices involving key species, like bison and swift fox, as these iconic animals begin to return to their homelands.

We discovered how craftspeople in Mongolia and Uganda harvest sustainable materials like camel hair and bark cloth to create textiles native to their environment, and learned about the materials in our clothing and how we can make better decisions for the environment.