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Numbers Add Up 

Thirty-five youth, 5 from 7 different tribes, tribes that claim harm from the success profitable mining brought to companies that gouged and ground up and left the land and water the disaster zone it came to be and has bled and blown and been carried to injure them.

Those tribes fought for what comes after the land scraping EPA’s Superfund allows. They want life to return, they want the land restored to be able to sustain the living beings a natural habitat would provide.

These tribal representatives sat with the other members of that council behind closed doors for 20 some odd years and fought for the future, a future I like to call “for the little ones.” The ones we as humans no longer know how to communicate with and in our case, the ones who have disappeared from the environment because our environment had become too toxic to sustain them.

How do we prepare the room, the land the space for these to return? With guidance, with knowledge of the “real world” these young people can see their world differently, they needed to see what land can provide and how we as people can begin to relate to her as in our case, a restored natural setting.

This Tar Creek Trustee Council (TCTC) organized the first Tar Creek Apprentice Program and these young people applied and were selected to participate in the weeks long training in restoration.

The honor to be in the room with the future was given to me last week when I was able to stand before the rows of young people in the Calcagno Ballroom at NEO following those who had made their own introductions earlier in the day and just after Ed Keheley had summarized the legacy mining history.  As Earl Hatley would say, “they set me up.” In this case, to outline what happened AFTER mining ceased here and how the community and many of the parents of these young people had sought ways to fight back.

Then yesterday, this same group of people stood on my land and walked through the portion of native prairie to stand on the edge of the buffalo wallow still providing water after the slaughter of that species almost into extinction over a hundred and sixty years ago. My son, Dana Jim told the buffalo’s story and led them across the field to experience the power and importance the relationship as native people we had with the land and the other inhabitants of it.

We then went to the far end of the land to begin the process it will take to begin doing some of what restoration will look like. We one by one began removing species that had invaded.  Over the course of the walk with all types of shovels, these people who you will come to know in the future as the “restorers of habitat” learned to spot thistles and how to remove them. The group of them in that short time dug up and removed 201 plants that will not be seeding back on that land again! We continued the walk and removed 6 young red cedars. We walked on to the burned circles where the larger red cedars had been burned earlier in the year. And it was there the digging began. Deep holes were needed in each of the planting sites.

And then we waited. The day before, these restoration apprentices had been to the Euchee Butterfly Farm and learned and saw the many pollinator plants grown there. Grown for tribes to plant in the corridor tribal lands have along the Monarch Butterfly path to Mexico. And many of the seeds for those plants had come from the land the young were walking through. The Euchee Butterfly Farm had grown those seeds and we were preparing for their homecoming.  A great variety of plants were brought to be planted in their very own homeland!

And that is what we did on one of the hottest days before summer officially comes. We brought those first “little ones” home and these restoration novices began doing what restoration actually is, bringing back what was lost. Giving the land hope for a new future.

One young person said, “this is what I have been waiting to do.” Another, “This was the best day ever.”

It certainly was the best day for me and for my land.

I say, come back and practice anytime.

Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim


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