2021 ESI guest post: A comic on the symbiotic relationship between the coyote and American badger

This is a guest blog post from Mateo Tlakuilkoatl, an Environmental Stewardship Institute fellow this summer. Mateo's comic imagines those in conflict over water resources learning from Native knowledge around the cooperative hunting strategies of coyotes and badgers. (Note: Opinions expressed in ESI projects are those of the program participant and do not necessarily represent those of FMR.)

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For my final project, I digitally drew a comic reflecting on the symbiotic relationship between the coyote (Canis latrans) and North American badger (Taxidea taxus). I try to utilize traditional knowledge/Native philosophy as the lens. With this and the relationship, I show how as humans in conflict, whether that be in a real-world situation or a fictional one, we can learn from nature’s relationships.

Check out the full comic at this link. Here's just one page:

Comic book page

In the comic, the people with masks in conflict become small spirits on page 2, the interesting-looking character is an elder spirit, and the small spirits turn into avatars of the animals to learn a different way after jumping into the leaf on page 3.

Why I chose this project

I chose this project because I really like to tell stories and create art.

Alongside this, I’m also very interested in nature, how it works and how it's a perfect system that works in tandem with itself. I also am very interested in Native science and traditional knowledge (which I’m still learning), and I wanted to somehow combine all these interests. I saw this project as an opportunity to connect all this, including my love for comics and visual learning. I used this as a practice run to try it out.

What I hope you take away

I didn’t specifically choose an issue, but many issues and problems can be identified via the story depending on your interpretation.

The main two things I would pull away and would like others to see is the conflict between people in all places. This can be in workplaces, in politics or with resources, but regardless, I think working together can solve minor conflicts and major ones.

The second issue is not that of the beauty of symbiotic relationships, but how we are destroying them. I hopefully depicted an inspiring scene of this relationship in the comic showing how two animals work together. But we are destroying those inspiring relationships we find in nature with our pollution, destruction of habitat and poaching.


This was my first go at something like this — making a comic that tells a story about important issues. I know the final product is nowhere near perfect or how I imagined it, but I hope you enjoyed reading/looking at it and took something away from it!

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What's the Environmental Stewardship Institute?

FMR's Environmental Stewardship Institute (ESI) fosters a diverse next generation of environmental leaders through an immersive program of local river issues and professional development that supports an interdisciplinary exploration of the environmental field.

FMR created ESI in 2019 to address the gap between environmental education and a career path in the environmental field. While many high schools offer green teams or eco clubs, many young people don't have the opportunity to explore what a career in the environmental field can look like. As an environmental organization, FMR wants to use our resources to help address that gap, in turn growing a stronger, more equitable future for the environmental movement.

ESI provides a paid job experience and foundational learning to a group of students, our ESI fellows, curious about environmental career paths. Upon completing the program, fellows are more prepared for continued schooling in environmental subjects and have work experience to lean on for future job opportunities across a variety of disciplines in the environmental field.

Check out other projects from 2021 ESI fellows.

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