By Angel Ellis/Reporter
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma —Director of Euchee Butterfly Farm Jane Breckinridge has been able to stay busy during the pandemic despite the fact that the farm was largely focused on educational classes and outreach geared towards saving the pollinators that are critical to agricultural.
Before COVID-19 it was normal to see various levels of professionals and citizens flock to the farm to learn about native plant species that attract pollinators. During their visit people would congregate around seeds and plants learning which plants attracted pollinators like the monarchs.
The farm also operated a flagship program called Natives Raising Natives project, a unique initiative that provided tribal members in Oklahoma all the tools, training and supplies to raise native species butterflies on their own land.
But like many industries COVID created a challenge. Before COVID many of the butterflies that were raised through the Natives Raising Natives Project were sold for release at weddings and special events.
“Now one of our big requests has been to fill butterfly orders that are used at funeral ceremonies,” Breckenridge said. “It’s very sad but for people to see the butterflies during a dark difficult time it gives a sense of peace.”
For Breckenridge, holding classes could be dangerous.
“We are caretakers for elderly family,” Breckenridge said. “So we had to make sure we are socially distancing and we also have to keep our staff safe.”
Without classes the farm still made good use of the down time. The farm now has a butterfly house were when it becomes safe visitors can see what goes into raising butterflies. In the giant open-air enclosure butterflies eat, lay eggs and the process is very interactive. The staff has even built a large fire pit for gatherings and trails to restored prairie habitats.
“We spent much of our time and energy into building and we built with all reused and recycled materials,” Breckenridge said.
The staff is harvesting seeds for plants that attract the butterflies and planting native species. The farm has also had two new buildings added to the site. One designated for conferences and trainings.
Another major change for the Euchee Butterfly Farm is SCOTUS decision. The land where the farm is located is officially recognized by the state of Oklahoma as a tribal reservation.
For Breckenridge the SCOTUS decision was a very emotional day.
“My overwhelming sentiment is gratitude,” Breckenridge said. “The only reason that I’m able to be on this land now is because the sacrifices of all of those who came before me.”
“I’m also acutely aware that many, many other Mvskoke and Native people sacrificed just as much, but still lost their land.”
Knowing that not everyone was able to hold onto his or her land for various reasons is heart breaking for Breckenridge.
“I want to take good care of this land to honor all of them, those from my family that made it possible for me to be here now and those who were so unjustly robbed of their land,” She said. “It’s a shared resource, one that I hope can benefit all of our people and the many plants, animals and insects who also call it their home.”
Breckenridge thinks that Mvskoke people have amazing ancestors to live up too.
“To have our sovereignty reaffirms what the Este Cate have long known but others may have not understood: we are still here and we will continue to take care of the lands that are rightfully ours as citizens of the Muscogee Nation,” Breckenridge said. “I’m just grateful to in some way do my small part.”
That is why during a time of social distancing and great uncertainty she and her staff have worked tirelessly to prepare for brighter days.