Wildtenders harvesting Yampah seed under the full moon, eastern Oregon (video by K. t. Sonnenblume)

Wild: to be living in a natural environment, not domesticated or cultivated. Tending: frequently behaving in a way to have a certain characteristic; attending to something.

So wildtending is the frequent actions of attending so as to foster an undomesticated character. To interact in such a way as to give each being its own life. It is a relationship of reciprocity with that which sustains us: to be giving back more than we take, in order to increase abundance and diversity for the continued sustenance of all.

Wildtending has been, (and continues to be), a life way for various indigenous peoples throughout the world.. The lived reality of such a life way goes beyond hunting and gathering. Tending is at the heart of such a way of coexisting with the rest of nature.

It may come as a surprise to many that humans being separate from wilderness is a relatively new and novel concept. The modern idea of conservation assumes the absence human influence. However, the wildlands we now seek to protect came to be thru interactions between humans, plants, animals and elements in the spirit of collaboration. We are living in the wild gardens of those who tended before us.

From a management perspective, the human role is to control natural processes in order to enhance a few aspects of an environment. This includes managing the forest for the trees, or the grasslands for grass to feed livestock. It is an outside perspective, one of looking at a situation. Management is often done at a large scale, and from this view many things are overlooked.

From a tending perspective, the human role is to participate with natural processes, in order to benefit many aspects of an environment. Participation begins with direct and regular engagement. It is an inside perspective, one of being in a situation. Tending consists of human scale activities, and from this view many things are closer and thus recognized.