Students dig recent tree planting activity at the Elijah Elk Cultural
By Patricia Ecker & Sarah Cummins
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
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
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
"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.