Butterfly farm director pays visit to Osage Nation

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

On Feb. 12, Jane Breckinridge, the director of The Euchee Butterfly Farm from Leonard, Okla., along with her husband David Bohlken visited the Osage Nation.

In a meeting with Osage Nation Assistant Chief Raymond Red Corn, Osage Nation Communities of Excellence Director Gail Boe, Craig Walker with Osage Nation ENR and Ta-Wa AmeriCorps workers discussed the need for pollinators and native plants in gardens. This was a follow-up to a workshop that Red Corn and Boe had attended earlier in Stillwater on the subject of pollinators. And timely as the Osage Nation is formulating plans to begin planting at Bird Creek Farm this spring.

“We are very passionate about trying to work with the tribes and Native people on issues of pollinators and butterflies, particularly the Monarch butterfly,” Breckinridge said. “So we are here (at the Osage Nation) to see if there is some way we can work together on your project, and it sounds like a very cool project, and we’d like to help you on this.”

Breckenridge, a citizen of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is the fifth-generation to work on her family’s tribal allotment. For the past twenty years, she has worked with Native people in various projects all which aim to better Native life. Such examples include:

· Commercial butterfly farms by Natives to increase income opportunities which can be lacking in rural communities.

· Raising awareness of conservation and the need for pollinators.

· Engaging Native youths in science through hands-on learning opportunities with caterpillars and butterflies.

· Making individuals on the federal level understand how tribal Nations must be included in issues due to sovereignty of lands in critical zones.

Importance of Pollination to Plants and all Life

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website on pollinators states, “It is an essential ecological survival function.” The reason is that “virtually” all seed plants must be pollinated. This in turn provides vegetation that helps to clean air, purify water, and aids in reducing erosion. And according to The Euchee Butterfly Farm, “Butterflies in the wild have only a 5% survival rate from egg to adult, while butterflies that are raised in captivity have a 95% survival rate.”

So, as the planning for the Bird Creek Farm gets underway, a place for a milkweed garden is being set aside. This plant per MonarchWatch.org is what Monarch larvae “appear to feed exclusively on.” A donation of milkweed seeds is coming from Gayle Deese, Operations Manager for Osage Nation Information Services. And Assistant Chief Red Corn liked the idea of establishing a pollinator habitat within the Bird Creek Farm active area to assist with the pollination of the crops.

When Breckinridge and David Bohlken toured Bird Creek Farm after the meeting, they were positive that this was an endeavor well worth the undertaking. Bohlken pointed out that the land was currently covered with non-native plants. His suggestion was to burn the area, then till the ground, and next kill any new growth. In the long run this would help with weed control. But he strongly encouraged the area should be planted with native plants.

“Prairie plants,” Bohlken stated, “don’t need to be watered as a rule like clover and other European grasses.” Bohlken further commented that fall flowers are not talked about much and they are important as sustenance to the Monarch butterflies when they fly south before winter.

To learn more about the programs offered by the Osage Nation Communities of Excellence, contact their office at (918) 287-5267. To learn more about The Euchee Butterfly Farm check out their website www.nativebutterflies.org