Ten years ago or so I was working on an education project with Lakota (part of the Sioux Nation which includes the Dakota and the Nakota) elders. We had spent most of the first day with introductions and prayers, to open minds and to remind each other that everyone had something to offer.
I got home to a beautiful spring evening and decided to sit behind my house so I could reflect on the day. To my surprise, a young male deer was also sitting behind the house, next to a fence that separates Fairlington Mews from the I 395 on-ramp. We eyed each other for a bit. I sat and watched him and he watched me. Being so close to a large wild animal was intimidating. I finally decided to go in the house, and as far as I knew the deer stayed there until nightfall.
I was puzzled by all of this as it was not a common occurrence to have deer just sitting in the Mews. I wondered if the Lakota elders could shed some light on what happened. We discussed it at lunch the next day and it was Duane Hollow Horn Bear who provided the best explanation.
“It sounds like the deer nation are breaking winter camp and moving to their summer home. What do you do when a relative visits? Your grandmother, or auntie, a favorite cousin? You greet them. You are happy to see them. You invite them into your house, give them a special meal, and provide lodging. When they leave you wish them safe travel.”
“Do the same for the deer. Thank him for his visit. Remind him to travel safely and to watch out for humans. They do not always see the deer nation by the roads. Also remind him that you too will watch out for his relatives as you travel.”
“Mitakuye Oyasin – we are all relatives.”
This lesson has stayed with me for a long time, and it is a lesson that is being applied in the Mews, and throughout the Fairlington community. By introducing more native plants to Fairlington, all of the Landscape Committees are also inviting more native habitants from birds, to insects, to mammals, and reptiles to our neighborhood. Think about how you will greet them when they arrive as we are all indeed relatives.
To learn more lessons from the Lakota visit Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires): https://doe.sd.gov/contentstandards/documents/18-OSEUs.pdf
Hear additional stories from Duane Hollow Horn Bear at: https://www.wolakotaproject.org/storytelling_duane_hollow_horn_bear/
New trees will be planted the week of December 14 or 21 in Courts 1, 3, and 11.
Moore and Wright are scheduled to come December 21 and 22 and December 28, 29, and 30.
Have you noticed the new garden upgrades in Courts 7 to 15? Some of the gaps have been refreshed with small “bugscapes” using native plants. Nate Erwin, a student of Douglas Tallamy, has been hard at work installing the gardens. He’ll start on Courts 1 to 6 next spring.
Happy Holidays from the Landscape Committee – Fern Birtwistle, Sue Davis, Penny Glass, and Judith Guerny (emeritus).