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Native Garden Project

Burton Hutchinson speaks to Wyoming Indian Elementary School students during a blessing ceremony at the Native Garden site

Wind River Alliance, in cooperation with Wyoming Indian Elementary School and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is developing a Native Garden on the grounds of Wyoming Indian Elementary school.

On June 22, the project was officially started with a blessing ceremony. At the ceremony, Burton Hutchinson blessed the site and spoke to WIES students about the importance of water and native plants in Arapaho culture.

Preparation of the site began the same afternoon, when Wind River Alliance volunteers stripped the sod off of the garden plot to prepare it for cultivation.

After being left fallow all summer, the site will be ready for planting. In the fall, students and volunteers will plant sweetgrass plugs, which will be provided by the Natural Resource Conservation Service with assistance from Steve Poitras. In the future, we hope to expand the garden to grow other culturally and ecologically important native plants which can then be used in planting projects throughout the watershed.

About Sweetgrass: Sweetgrass (Heirochloe odorata) is a tall, sweet-smelling grass that is widely used as an incense, and for basketry and costumes. Sweetgrass is “rhizomatous”, meaning it spreads by sending out horizontal, root-like stems called rhizomes. In fact, a single sweetgrass plug (a stem or two with a few inches of frizzy rhizome) can spread to cover a square foot of ground in a single year. Wild stands of sweetgrass still exist in many places, but are threatened by overharvesting.