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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Fort Belknap College Re-Establishing Native Plants
by Indian Country Today Staff

HARLEM, Mont. – Spring at Fort Belknap College promises to be the start of an exciting endeavor, the Aaniinen-Nakoda Environmental Excellence Center will be teaming up with the National Science Foundation-Tribal Colleges and Universities Program to re-establish native plants in local areas.

The ANEEC is attempting to propagate, out-plant and establish native plants on the Fort Belknap Reservation with the help of local agencies, elders, students and faculty.

While Western science is a powerful and successful methodology using quantitative analyses, other valid epistemologies such as local place-based knowledge, known as traditional ecological knowledge or indigenous knowledge, are vital to science research.

“While brainstorming with the NSF-TCUP Project Coordinator Cheryl Morales and the USDA Extension Project Director Manny Morales, we agreed that students under the TCUP Summer Program and the FBC Internships could start healing their environment by doing hands-on place-based research for their community,” said Dr. Victoria Yazzie, ANEEC director.

“So we sought the help of Nakoda elder, Minerva Allen in Lodgepole, in February. And with her help we identified some local plants that can be used for re-vegetation restoration and for native plant landscaping alternatives on FBC campus. Minerva also serves on the Fort Belknap College Board of Directors as the Assiniboine Mountain District Representative and as a member of the Council of Elders.

“We met with Dennis Long Knife from the tribal EPA department about the wetlands on the Fort Belknap reservation and located two areas to have students replant the willows in the Upper Little Peoples Creek and King Springs area,” Cheryl Morales said. “The students will have a unique opportunity to really be a part of the effort for ecological restoration in the watersheds on the Fort Belknap Reservation.”

Fort Belknap College is a tribal college, and is the only minority serving institution to receive a National Science Foundation [] grant in September 2009 for the establishment of the Aaniinen-Nakoda Environmental Excellence Center. The center is advancing discovery and understanding by offering students integrative and multi-disciplinary place-based environmental research and education. The center is infusing Aaniinen-Nakoda cultures by working collaboratively with the community, council of elders, faculty, and staff by integrating local traditional knowledge with Western science in research and educational experiences. The learning experience for many of the students is enhanced.

This synergistic approach is a precept of the ANEEC. One of the goals of the project is to fully integrate the science, technology and math learning experience of which research and education are embedded in a cultural and land-based context that fosters student engagement and promotes student success. ANEEC brings together the STM degree programs and connects the STM projects by effectively and efficiently melding research experiences with academic curriculum.

“In the summer of 2006 we had two TCUP interns who assisted the botany instructor in initiating the collecting of local native plants and developing a herbarium,” Morales said.

“We are extremely excited about this opportunity to do work with indigenous people and to help heal mother earth,” Yazzie said. “We hope to have some plants started in FBC greenhouse by May 2010 for use in the summer research opportunities for students. We will also be collecting plants and continue the development of the herbarium of local native plants.

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