Share This:

Students dig recent tree planting activity at the Elijah Elk Cultural Center

Patricia Ecker

6/7/2000 12:00:00 AM

Students dig recent tree planting activity at the Elijah Elk Cultural Center

By Patricia Ecker & Sarah Cummins

Staff Writers

Area students helped give back to Mother Earth by planting seedlings recently on the grounds of the Elijah Elk Cultural Center.

Saginaw Chippewa Academy Binoojiinh Montessori and Montcalm Community College Native American history students planted Norway pine seedlings on May 5. The trees were donated to the Seventh Generation Program by Tribal Council member William Frederico.

"We're giving back because we take and take and take," explained Seventh Generation Program Director Milton "Beaver" Pelcher.

Social Science Instructor Kenric DeLong, who teaches the only Native American history class at MCC, said he hopes to foster a relationship with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in order to become acquainted with the culture, traditions and community.

"Part of what we try to do is raise an awareness that there are over 500 recognized Tribes," explained DeLong. "We like to expose them to diversity."

During the past semester, DeLong and several of his students took part in Day Camp 2000 activities at the center. Teachers and students learned from presentation by Saginaw Chippewa community leaders and children. They have also been invited to learn how to cover a wigwam at the center.

The students from the academy also participated in cultural activities in preparation for Earth Day at the center.

According to lower elementary student Alisha Shenoskey, the students were there "because it's fun to plant trees."

Nine-year-old Breanna Ralston explained that they were "giving back to Mother Earth."

The students and staff members took turns planting and watering the new trees. Some walked barefoot through the dirt while others poured water over themselves to wash hands and hot faces.

"Giving back to the earth, giving back to those who came before me, giving back to some Indian people-It's a way to set an example for my children and grandchildren," explained Nancy Marsh. She is one of 16 MCC students who will be going to the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation in Eagle Butte, S.D.

The week-long trip is sponsored by the Habitat for Humanity Okiciyapi Tipi Chapter. A major part of the classes curriculum involves service learning and volunteerism.

"There are certain things that you can't teach," explained DeLong. He said he believes in attaining first-hand experience.

The students who take the trip will live and work in the Eagle Butte community. They will spend a 40-hour work week building or rehabilitating homes.

"This experience lets the students find out on their own about contemporary Native America," stated DeLong. "I'm a historian. I like to emphasize the importance of getting the other side of the story.

"Students learn what it's like to feel like the minority in a society during their stay at the Reservation. Many students from the MCC campus haven't had the opportunity to leave the state of Michigan- let alone visit an Indian Reservation in South Dakota."

Establishing a connection with Seventh Generation Program staff in Michigan has benefited the class, according to DeLong. Seventh Generation Program Cultural Representative Kent Jackson echoed those sentiments.

"It's good to get the outside community here to help," said Jackson. "We like to share."

Pelcher said he was very thankful for the donation of the trees and for the students' participation. After planting the trees, the MCC students were invited to stay at the center for lunch. DeLong's course is offered every January at MCC. For more information, call (517) 328-1258.

Saginaw Chippewa Academy Binoojiinh Montessori student Roland Jackson waters a Norway pine seedling he planted on May 5.