A Talk on the Wild Side.
Dr. Chip Taylor from Monarch Watch teaches tribes about nectaring plants essential for monarchs and other pollinators. Photo by Kate Miyamoto/USFWS
On September 28, the Service’s Southwest and Mountain-Prairie regions celebrated the newly formed Tribal Alliance for Pollinators Partnership. The regions will be working with multiple Native American tribes in partnership with The Learning Center at the Euchee Butterfly Farm and Monarch Watch to conserve the monarch butterfly on tribal lands. Together, the alliance will enable tribes to build and expand their capacity for monarch conservation, increase seed banks for pollinator habitat restoration, and just as importantly, fulfill traditional cultural obligations to protect the land and the wildlife that dwell on it. Ultimately, the partnership hopes that tribes across the entire country will participate and reap the benefits.
Monarch tribal conservation actions started from a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund project with Monarch Watch and seven Native American tribes in eastern Oklahoma in 2015. The project provided the training needed to plant milkweed and to collect, process, store and propagate seeds of native milkweeds and wildflowers. It also established seed production plots, creation of demonstration plots and the development of conservation plans, including site selection and preparation, as well as long term maintenance of restored properties.
The Euchee Butterfly Farm, operated by members of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, took on a leadership role working with tribes in Oklahoma as Monarch Watch began implementing tribal conservation actions through their 2015 grant. The Euchee Butterfly Farm is a founding member of Tribal Environmental Action for Monarchs, a unique coalition of tribes working together to reduce the catastrophic population loss of the monarch butterfly by replanting tribal lands with the native milkweeds and wildflowers that have been extirpated from their natural ecosystems. The Euchee Butterfly Farm provides ongoing support to all aspects of the project, and maintains a seed bank of locally sourced native milkweeds and wildflowers as a resource for tribal habitat restoration. This is the only tribal coalition in the world working on monarch conservation.
Given the success of that program and increased interest from other tribal partners, the Euchee Butterfly Farm and Monarch Watch recognized a potential niche they could fill to enable tribes nationwide to engage in monarch conservation activities. Service tribal liaisons and regional pollinator and monarch coordinators hosted two tribal workshops with more than 26 Native American tribes from Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. Funding was provided by the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society. This was first time many of them sat together; it happened because of monarchs. They gathered to conserve this culturally significant insect.
The history of the monarch and other butterflies has direct ties to tribal heritage. Many of the Southwest tribes originate elsewhere in the United States. The monarch butterfly connects them to their ancestral land. The Hopi and Cherokee have a traditional social dance that recognizes the butterfly for its beauty and its contribution in pollinating plant life. It is considered one of the most beautiful ceremonial dances.
MARA KOENIG, External Affairs, Midwest Region