What Is a Native, Anyway?
by Bill Neiman

Thinking of scattering seeds around your space? Wondering which seeds belong? Consider about how far a buffalo can run. The ways of the buffalo can show us simple truths. Try imagining yourself, the largest mammal remaining on the continent. You might be found on the red earth bank of a river in Oklahoma.The native meadow lies before you with lush prairie grasses making their nutritious seed heads. Sunflowers and gayfeathers are bountiful. As you graze, the daytime heats up into an afternoon thunderstorm. Bolts of lightening crash down by your side. Being very scared, all your family of brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, mom, dad, and your great-grandmother, take to the hoof running. All run with you 'til dark, and most end up in Texas around Waco on the Brazos River. Others in the tribe ran a different way and were never to be seen again.
Being the kind of day it was, and the type of breakfast we had up on the Red River, well the truth of the matter is that those seeds just didn't digest very well. Some were laid out in little piles on the ground by the banks of the Brazos. We didn't know anything about bagged fertilizer back then, but those Black-eyed Susan seeds readily sprouted. You could hear the young sprouts mentioning to the old-time residents that they looked familiar, that they felt at home, as in family. We buffalo spoke among the Black-eyed Susan sprouts that autumn and then again to the flowers in the spring. The bees and the butterflies were buzzing around, mixing up the pollen grains of the new black-eyes with the old black-eyes, and all the neighbors got to know each other. And just maybe the slightest little chromosomes were exchanged, thanks to the bees and us. The newcomers from the Red River contributed a little strength to protect from cold snaps that come along with those blue northers. The Red River black-eye was accustomed to cold weather. And then, of course, the Waco family of black-eyes gave little secrets to the Red River Black-eyes that taught how to live in the heat of a summer drought.
That next summer we found ourselves on the Blackland Prairie with dry, cracked open soil. I remember my buffalo cousin stepped in a deep crack in the black clay and broke her ankle. She was born up in northern Kansas and had been separated from her family last year during a wildfire. The move south was too much for her. She never did adapt to the hot summer and sure enough that cracked ground and broken ankle did her in.

As time went by, the Black-eyed Susans could be heard saying what a good neighborly exchange had been made. They felt stronger because of joining together as a family. "We could get along for an eternity doing this. Your kids and my kids can sustain for a long time," they said. The surviving buffalo were all in agreement, even though many changes were known to be coming. And - that is the way of it. At this moment it was said, "Some things will never change. Native plants will always belong. And don't be afraid to make a move."



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