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As Bees Die, Keweena Bay Indian Community Adults, Teens Actively Protect Pollinators

Society & Culture  (tags: Keweenaw Bay Indians, Indians, Native American, American Indians, Conservation, Butterflies, Polinators, activists, americans, culture, society, children, education, environment, ethics, freedoms, humans, interesting, rights )

- 3564 days ago -
Tribal youth build butterfly houses; adults restore beauty, native plants to Sand Point on Lake Superior L'Anse, Mich. - Millions of Monarchs will begin arriving in Mexico this week in an annual migration that includes thousands traveling through...


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kat yazzie (400)
Saturday December 20, 2008, 11:31 am

L’Anse, Mich. - Millions of Monarchs will begin arriving in Mexico this week in an annual migration that includes thousands traveling through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and some of the butterflies can thank Keweenaw Bay Indian Community teens for their future survival.

The Zaagkii Wings and Seeds Project in Marquette was created to protect pollinators like butterflies because billions of honeybees are dying across the world – especially in the Midwest – in a syndrome called “Colony Collapse Disorder.”

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) youth and Marquette teens spent this summer building the first of dozens of butterfly houses that will be created over the next three years. The white cedar butterfly houses were put up this fall in two U.P. counties (Marquette and Baraga counties). Lined with bark and slimmer than birdhouses, the shelters offer protection, rest and reproduction safety to Monarchs and other butterflies.

Translated Mem’ en gwa in Algonquian, the butterfly has long been honored by Ojibwa lore, poems and children’s games. KBIC teens are helping to ensure the butterflies will forever pollinate fruits, vegetables and flowers.

“Send me butterflies, so that I will be free,” states one Chippewa poem while the Ojibwa game “Butterfly Hide and Seek” teaches children to “never to hurt a butterfly” because it’s a “gift of good luck if you stayed so quiet that a butterfly would trust you and land on you,” according to American Indian internet sites.

Zaagkii is an Ojibwa word that means: “The Earth’s gift of plants” and “The Earth giving birth to plants.”

While bees are the best known and possible the most effective pollinators, butterflies are a close second in transferring pollen from one plant to another.

Experts are unsure why honeybee colonies are collapsing but pesticides, climate change and other man-made impact are among the suspected causes. Experts say the loss of the honeybees is alarming because without pollinators the world food supply will dry up including fruits, vegetables, flowers, other plants and trees.

The Zaagkii Project was founded this summer by the non-profit Cedar Tree Institute (CTI) in Marquette whose other environment projects have included wild rice restoration and Earth Day hazardous waste collections.

Albert Einstein made a grim - but surely accurate - prediction on what will happen if bees vanish.

“Albert Einstein, who most people recognize as an intelligent person, speculated once that if bees disappeared off the surface of the earth, then humans would have only four years of life left,” said Todd Warner, KBIC Natural Resource Director.

“The problem with disappearing pollinators is a cause for concern (because) all life is interconnected,” Warner said.

“The health of a community is intertwined with the health of their environment, their water, their air, their soil and so on,” he said. “Problems with one area lead to problems in other areas”

“If the pollinators disappear, then vegetation systems are disrupted and begin collapsing, some plants will disappear, many or most fruits and vegetables disappear, and the ripple of impact moves outward in ways we can’t predict,” Warner said.

During a CTI event for project supporters, Northern Michigan University (NMU) student David Anthony made a Native American tobacco and food offering to “the Great Spirits.”

“Thank you for the Zaagkii Project,” said Anthony, a member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa (Ottawa) Indians in Harbor Springs, MI. “Thank you for the animals and all the birds, the trees, the plants.”

“Thank you for all the interconnectiveness that we have today - it’s through these interconnections that we find the healing,” said Anthony, who writes for the Anishinaabe News - the NMU Native American student-run newspaper.

Then cameras and recording devices were turned off as April Lindala sang Ojibwa songs taught to her as a gift from members of the tribe because she doesn’t speak their language.

A member of the Six Nations tribe, Lindala is the director of the NMU Center for Native American Studies.

“Since those (songs) were gifts, I would ask that nobody record anything because they are not mine and they are sacred,” Lindala asked the crowd who followed her wishes.

The three-year Zaagkii Project is sponsored by the KBIC, CTI, Marquette County Juvenile Court and the United States Forest Service (USFS).

As honeybees vanish, the USFS is also worried about the decline in bumblebees including two species that have gone extinct.

“We are seeing a reduction in the number of bumblebees,” said Jan Schultz, Botany and Non-native Invasive Species Program Leader at the USFS eastern region office in Milwaukee.

“Bumblebees are pollinators on steroids – they are tens times more effective in pollinating than a honeybee,” she said. “They engage in a particular type of pollenation that’s called buzz pollenation.”

“You’ll hear this drilling buzzing sound – it’s a loud buzzing sound,” Shultz said. “They violently buzz the inside of that plant.”

“There are some plants species that have to be pollinated that roughly to be effectively pollinated,” she said. “Bumblebees are fabulous pollinators.”

Another important part of the Zaagkii Project is restoring native plants to the once barren Sand Point, a Lake Superior beach where the environment has been degraded by the deposition of decade’s old copper mining waste.

Marquette teens planted over 26,000 native species in seed trays and many of those will be transplanted at Sand Point in the spring of 2009.

The KBIC Summer Youth Program teens built and painted butterfly houses at the tribal hatchery this summer with help from Natural Resource Department (NRD) Water Quality Specialist Kit Laux, NRD environment specialists Char Beesley and Katie Kruse and youth supervisors Cody Blue, Kim Klopstein and Nancy Voakes.

As birds chirped loudly along the shores of Lake Superior, 17-year-old Ethan Smith, 15-year-old Janelle Paquin and other KBIC teens measured, hammered and painted the butterfly houses.

“We put the bark on the inside like so – for the butterflies to rest on,” said Smith while showing the strips of bark that line the house. “We put on the top so the sunlight doesn’t get in and they can get a good night’s rest.”

14-year-old Jorey Cribbs of Baraga said plants reproduce because butterflies “transport pollen from flower to flower” and the butterfly houses offer “shelter in bad weather.”

William Ross-Geroux,14, of Baraga said he learned that when pollinators “land on flowers and then land on different flowers they help them reproduce.”

The butterfly houses sit on 10-foot poles. Butterflies with folded wings enter through seven tiny slits.

“Butterflies use the houses to rest while migrating,” said 16-year-old Dylan DeCota of Baraga.

“I learned that when butterflies land on flowers and they pick up pollen from other flowers this starts the pollination process,” said 14-year-old Briar Nieskes of Baraga.

Warner said it’s important for tribal teens to protect pollinators.

“Young people learning about pollinators and native plants today will carry this knowledge for the rest of their lives,” Warner said. “How they use it will be up to them.”

Each fall “hundreds of thousands” of Monarchs “stop and rest” on the Stonington Peninsula in the southern U.P. before joining three million Monarchs from across North America in their annual migration to Mexico, said Jon Magnuson, CTI executive director and founder of the Zaagkii Project.

“A lot of people think butterflies are just pretty but they do important work,” Magnuson told the KBIC teens as they built butterfly houses.

“Butterflies ride the winds” and warm thermals as they fly only a few inches off the ground or soar 2,000 feet in the air, Magnuson said.

“They don’t fly against the wind. If the wind is going against them, they just rest. They hide somewhere.”

“When the wind blows behind them they get on the winds and ride them,” Magnuson said turning around to gesture a tail wind and then using both hands to demonstrate gliding. “That’s how they get to Mexico.”

About 32 years ago, the group Monarch Watch first discovered the annual Monarch migration and began tracking the butterflies, said Zaagkii Project volunteer Tom Reed.

Monarchs “converge in one small area” in Mexico and “drape down off of these trees,” said Reed, who has a bachelors degree in social work. “They are really vulnerable to extinction.”

“Pollinators come in many forms – even the wind is a pollinator – it blows around pollen from one flower to another,” Reed said.

Marquette teens were given a tour of a Negaunee Township bee farm where the hives are home to about 60,000 honeybees.

Beekeeper Jim Hayward, a dentist who prefers honey to sugar, explained the different jobs of bees in a colony like the workers and how a hive produces a queen. Hayward said if all bees disappeared the world food supply would be devastated as “fruits, vegetables, nuts and other commercial crops” vanish.

“If they need to create a new queen, they feed worker larvae an extract from their heads called royal jelly,” said Hayward, who explained bees communicate the location of nectar to others in the hive by the “frequency they wag their abdomens” and using the sun.

“We are all dependent on bees and other things,” Hayward said after several teens thanked him for the tour that included tasting fresh honey, dressing in protective gear, touching drones that don’t have stingers and opening wooden crates that house thousands of honeybees who have been calmed with a smoker filled with slowly burning dried sumac.

Hayward taught the teens to use the dried sumac and honey to make a tea that tastes like lemonade.

“The more you learn about nature and can understand nature – the more you can appreciate the web of life and how we all exist,” said Hayward, adding that bald-faced hornets are one of the biggest killers of honeybees.

Marquette teens planted about 26,000 native plants seeds at the Hiawatha National Forest greenhouse in Marquette. Those plants will winter in the greenhouse and be transplanted next spring across northern Michigan.

“They are planting seeds that are native to the U.P.,” said Angie Lucas, Hiawatha National Forest contractor and greenhouse manager. “Native plants play a vital role in insect populations.”

“For example Monarch caterpillars are specific to milkweed plants and without milkweed plants we have no Monarch caterpillars,” Lucas said, adding that at least 17 Monarchs tagged on the U.P.’s Stonington Peninsula were discovered in Mexico.

Milkweed seeds are collected at the Hiawatha National Forest, raised in the Marquette greenhouse and the young plants are returned to nature, Lucas said.

“The milkweed provides food for the Monarch caterpillars – once the caterpillars mature and turn into a butterfly that pollinates the milkweed plant,” said Lucas describing the symbiotic relationship between butterflies and native plants.

The Marquette teens “went to libraries and studied about the Monarch butterflies and their life cycle and their migration patterns,” said Danny Weymouth, 16, whil talking to a group of Zaagkii Project supporters.

“We ended up learning about bees and we went and looked at some honey bees and learned about their life cycles,” Weymouth said. “Protecting the pollinators is what the project is really about.”

While planting seeds, several Marquette teens explained why the Zaagkii Project was important to pollinators.

Restoring indigenous plants is vital to U.P. wildlife “so our native species don’t get overruled and extinct by predator species,” said Justin Fassbender, 16, while planting columbine and monarda seeds.”

Ensuring the future of native plants is important because “there are a lot of invasive species,” said Devin Dahlstrom, 15.

Some of the native plants will be used by the KBIC tribe as one of the final the steps in the clean up of Sand Point Beach on Keweenaw Bay that was polluted about 90 years ago with stamp sands from the Mass Mill that refined copper four miles to the north along Lake Superior.

The indigenous plants will attract a wide range of wildlife to the 35 acres left barren by the stamp sands at Sand Point, said Warner, adding “it’s been covered with a 6 to 10-inch thick soil cap.”

The first tribal Brownfield cleanup site in the Midwest, the KBIC was honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for restoring Sand Point. Plans for the prime recreation area include a nature tail, restoring a historic lighthouse, swimming, camping, boating, picnic areas and fishing ponds, Warner said.

“The problem with invasive plant species is also cause for concern,” Warner said. “It’s nice to do something other than just watch it happen.”

“The tribe has always taken a stand that they want to seed – that they want propagation of the native species,” Ravindra said. “ They want to protect the native species and keep this area the way it is now, rather than having the exotics (plants) come in and destroying what we have established.”

“It’s out in the public view so it would bring awareness to people all around of the trouble that the pollinators are in and what they can being doing to help – the kind of plants that maybe they can be bringing back to their own home gardens – ways that they can be helping,” Ravindran said.

Warner said the KBIC tribe “works on projects like this for many reasons, to assist with providing some education and fun activity for young people, to help educate people, and to try to get a positive resource impact in motion.”

“A lot of human impact on the environment is negative,” Warner said. “We need to work sometimes to put some positive in motion.”

Appearing on a California radio show, a USFS botanist praised the KBIC and Zaagkii Project because native plants “are important sources of pollen and nectar” that make pollinators “very effective.”

“During all the time that these bees and butterflies are active and not dormant is real important,” said Jan Schultz, botany and non-native species program leader at the USFS eastern region office in Milwaukee. “So they’ve got something literally to eat – from the time they emerge – to the time they go back into their caves or cracks in the trees.”

Schultz said “another issue is the amount of chemicals that we use for gardening, and for lawn control.”

“The chemicals many times are not very discriminant, and so they will kill these pollinators as well as the undesirable species,” Schultz said. “So it’s really important for people to think ‘Gee, do I really need to use that?’ ”

The USFS says the public can help protect pollinators by being careful about what type of insecticides are used and reducing the amount of “chemicals that we use for gardening and lawn control,” Schultz said.

“The chemicals many times are not very discriminant,” she said. “They will kill these pollinators as well as the undesirable species.”

“It’s really important for people to think ‘Gee, do I really need to use that?’ Try to get pesticides that are more discriminant to what the offender is.”

“Apply the pesticide either really, really early in the morning ... or at dusk when the pollinators aren’t active,” Schultz said.The Zaagkii Project contributors include the Marquette Community Foundation, the Negaunee Community Fund, the Negaunee Community Youth Fund, the M.E. Davenport Foundation, the Kaufman Foundation, the Phyllis and Max Reynolds Foundation, with assistance from the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum in Marquette and the Borealis Seed Company in Big Bay.

Chris Otahal (507)
Saturday December 20, 2008, 11:40 am
Thank you so much for a happy positive story - people joining together in unity to make a difference :)

Kate S (114)
Saturday December 20, 2008, 11:44 am

Janet Solomon (231)
Saturday December 20, 2008, 11:54 am
This is so inspiring--thank you Kat! I hope everyone gets to read it--it's certainly critical we ACT to preserve our unknowing benefactors in their times of hardship--or WE will be the ones who suffer!
Namaste! janet sol xo

Past Member (0)
Saturday December 20, 2008, 12:18 pm
Noted. Thanks Kat.

. (0)
Saturday December 20, 2008, 12:20 pm
If every body that treated there yard knew what they were doing to our Earth they would stop it. It kills the bugs which the birds eat to live on and worms. Wild flowers that bring bees so they die off. I think they need to pass a law to stop it compelty. Let nature take care of your yard and just mow it and quit trying to keep up with the stinken Jones's. For if this continues they will all die. Some one get a petition out on this please and it it moving. I use to do it don't any more now we have bird all the time, I also have Moon flowers that come up each year and bee's are now commings to it. before we had none. For the last 2 years they have been comming back and this makes me so happy. Thanks Kat

Talldeer C (47)
Saturday December 20, 2008, 1:41 pm
This just shows how fragile our enviroment is!! We must all protect it!!Wounderful story Kat,You are a truly wonderful person..

Marion Y (322)
Saturday December 20, 2008, 2:12 pm
Good news!! These teens are trying their best to undo the bad deeds of the oil, gas and chemical companies that pollute the land and kill these insects that are vital to the planet.

Pamylle G (461)
Saturday December 20, 2008, 2:18 pm
Native wisdom - a precious perspective which holds the key to the survival of life on this planet. May the world come to know and act accordingly !

. (0)
Saturday December 20, 2008, 3:59 pm
I hope one day that the entire western world,reaches the standards of practical living and knowledge,still evident today amongst tribes and tribes people.

nurith k (93)
Saturday December 20, 2008, 4:28 pm
don't let monsanto know, they hate butterflys!!! and everything else that lives as well, anyway!!!

sue M (184)
Saturday December 20, 2008, 4:30 pm
Beautiful story and I applaud these teens. What a wonderful contribution to our society and environment.
Thanks Kat and noted.

Greg Peterson (39)
Saturday December 20, 2008, 5:16 pm
Thank you for posting my article on the Zaagkii Wings and Seeds Project - My name is Greg and I am the volunteer media advisor for the project plus a news reporter here in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Reading the reaction makes me feel the volunteer work of these teens is appreciated.

We thank Native American Times and other American Indian media and other non-native papers for running the story.

I will pass a link to these comments on to all involved.
Videos coming soon on Zaagkii Project:
Please check out a few other Native American youth-related projects for which I volunteer:

Posted Today - a four part video series on:
2008 Cowboys & Angels Turtle Island Project benefit concert for the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society

Please check out a few other Native American related Project for which I volunteer:
Part 1:
Other parts can easily be found on main page:

The non-profit Turtle Island Project is run by Rev. Dr. Lynn Hubbard & Rev. Dr. George Cairns - who believe the world is on the brink of a "kyros" moment involving the environment and the future of mankind.
They believe we need to take lessons on respecting environment from Indigenous peoples,
It promotes respect for the environment, Native Americans and Indigenous peoples like Celtic community and others:
June & July 2008 Videos on youth environment project of the Menominee Indian Tribe of WI:
Earth Keeper Initiative:

Nov. 2008 Mining Journal Story on Earth Keeper Initiative Sierra Club Award:
Lake Superior Magazine on Earth Keeper Projects

EarthKeeper TV Videos:
Manoomin (Wild Rice) Project:
Indian Country Today story on Manoomin Project:

Manoomin Project Videos:
Earth Healing Initiative:
Earth Healing TV Videos:
Earth Healing Initiative, Earth Keeper Iniative, Zaagkii Wings & Seeds Project and Manoomin Project are all non-profits run on a shore string budget and the brainchild of Rev. Jon Magnuson and involve teens, college students, American Indian Tribes and 10 faith communities with 150 churches/temples across northern Michigan. (Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist, Baha'i, Jewish, Zen Buddhist, Quakers)

Rev. Magnuson is founder of the non-profit Cedar Tree Institute - that oversees these projects.
Sorry about this long note - I am passionate because each project serves an important goal.
All projects are volunteer - and every penny goes into project not wasted on offices, overhead etc.

Greg Peterson,
Michigan news reporter & volunteer media advisor for Zaagkii Wings & Seeds Project, Earth Keeper Initiative, Earth Healing Initiative, Turtle Island Project and the Manoomin Project


Sheryl G (360)
Saturday December 20, 2008, 5:20 pm
We need the pollinators otherwise we will all face starvation it is so critical a step in the food chain.

K A (152)
Saturday December 20, 2008, 9:04 pm
They sell the nicest little butterfly houses at the rest stop at the ga. n.c.. border. A good bud of mine picked one up, next trip check to see if they've re-upped their supply. Possible to make one at home. We have gobs of b'flys here at the ranch where I rent in the spring. These amazing dark blue and black ones, and giant migrations of monarchs. Although since (7 years) I've had cats outside not as many free styling around. I have two major butterfly bushes one Dark purple and one lavender, on each side of walk way to my front door, I planted one ten years ago. Anyway I can walk up to the Butterflys an give them kisses!!! I do that too! Its so neat for me!
Great image up there Kat Z. Oh and GREEN starzz for you and Greg P. Lovin light! cu *biggestgrin* ;)

Sandra M Z (114)
Saturday December 20, 2008, 9:22 pm
Agree with Joy, don't use poison pesticides!

Very important work by these youth! (Loud applause). Thank you, and thank you Greg for the links.

Thank you Kat Moasi for this story. It is so huge in implications, right up there in importance with the story about that (75% of all zoo plankton is gone). These stories should be broadcast on every channel worldwide, everyday, they are that important to ALL humans and all life on Earth. This should be the kind of news that would stop all war and make us realize how fragile we are, no matter who or where you are. Noted, thank you again.

Christine A (57)
Sunday December 21, 2008, 2:48 pm
Thank you Kat for this story! It is wonderful that these teens are helping to provide shelter for the Monarchs. One of the problems is that most people are ignorant of the vital role that butterflies and bees play in our environment. (cut down the milkweed - they are WEEDS!)

It comes to mind that the governments are bailing out the auto manufactures with BILLIONS of dollars, (and this only a stop gap measure!), but when it comes to things that are even more important - like ensuring sources of food via the pollinators to ensure our existence on earth - they have tunnel vision! How about a few BILLION for our fragile environment??

Donna C (0)
Sunday December 21, 2008, 3:14 pm
Oh, please! I hope someone who doesn't read carefully would think that they SHOULD cut down the milkweed. Come to think of it, my poor husband who was raised in Chicago's suburbs knew nothing about the monarch/milkweed connection. Much less the gathering of kapok for flotation devices in WWII.

Something to be noted, as well: read the article about the horse tracks suing the Indian casinos down in Florida. My grand-daughter is receiving an excellent education due to casino funds in S E Wisconsin. She intends to give back to her benefactors when she completes her education and becomes a Doctor. I am incredibly proud of her as well as these giving young people.

DIANE S (104)
Monday December 22, 2008, 8:19 am
Donna C. wonderful and honorable post thank you.....Everything on this earth is here for a reason....The milk weed has a worm inside that is very important and is used for fishing. We survive off of our land and what grows on it. Cutting down everything and making a concert world is not going to help us survive .... the future depends on people who care. The honey bee disappearing is a dangerous situation, they do more for this planet than you think also the lady bugs. I know many people think I'm nuts and have nothing better to do...but I feel that someday when all these important creatures are gone this earth will go through a change and the human race might not survive. It happened once it can happen again.

Kari D (192)
Monday December 22, 2008, 12:31 pm

Greg Peterson (39)
Monday December 22, 2008, 9:24 pm
I too grew up around Monarchs and had no idea how important they were to Monarchs.
Indigenous aka native plants play an important part of all ecosystems.
The invasive species - not native to a particular area - are often brought in by accident and force out the native plants.
I have learned a lot about butterflies, bees and native plants since volunteering for Zaagkii Project.

Soon I will have the videos edited of these kids from this summer - if you think that today's youth don't care this will help renew your confidence in future generations.

Some of the non-native teens are at-risk youth who came to us thru juvenile court for minor crimes.

They do care - and some of those from juvenile court who were involved in our wild rice planting (they were taught to plant & survey wild rice and many other lessons by American Indian elders) have returned as volunteers for the Zaagkii Project.

They will be reading all your supportive comments.

Christine A (57)
Tuesday December 23, 2008, 6:36 am
Donna C. - You are right! I should have written more carefully about the milkweed! Most folks in this small rural community treat milkweed as a 'bad weed', little realizing its vital importance to the Monarch butterfly! I have two or three milkweed plants growing in my front flower garden right next to the sidewalk! I'm sure some people wonder why I don't rip out the 'weeds'! I am waiting patiently for someone to ask me! :)

Wonder who ever made the differentiation between 'flowers' and 'weeds' anyway? They are all the same as far as I am concerned and all have a role to play in our environment (- some are just prettier to our way of thinking). I'm sure the bees, butterflies and insects see things differently! In fact, according to a documentary, bees do not see colours as we see them. The colours bees see are much more attractive to them! :)

Elm Morrison (357)
Tuesday December 23, 2008, 8:02 am
Beautiful. Can we import these project originators for a few months, into Africa? You could teach our youth so much. Great idea to start here at schools, using a local icon. Thanks you very much for sharing with us.

serge vrabec (278)
Saturday January 10, 2009, 1:39 pm
These are the types of things that have me very excited these days, it is about ALL of us coming together to reshape OUR "lifestyles" so we don't ALL die, again.

"Unity, Baby, Unity- Austin Powers
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