behind Soaring Eagle Prairie
Glinda Crawford, Ph.D.
Gift: Soaring Eagle Statue
Eugene E. Myers, University of North Dakota (UND) alumnus and benefactor,
commissioned the Soaring Eagle Statue by Turtle Mountain Chippewa artist
Bennett Brien. The statue was installed fall 2000 along the University's
busiest sidewalks and under the watchful eyes of two bald eagles soaring
overhead. The statue, which depicts an eagle lifting off a dead tree,
was a gift from Colonel Meyers to UND students. It was a gift becoming
many gifts in return.
Berger: A Spark Who Got It Started
people were deeply moved by the statue. One of those was Kristy Berger,
2000-01 Vice President of the Student Body and senior in Communications.
Kristy had taken a Sociology course called "Knowing Nature"
the spring before, where she learned about the fundamental relationship
of humans to the landscape. She discovered the significance to her life
of her North Dakota prairie home and the reality that this connection
gave her peace during some pretty stressed times. Her class was involve
in planting the first prairie garden on campus at the Lotus Meditation
Center. Something magical happened when Kristy and her classmates put
their hands into the soil. Kristy became committed to putting a prairie
garden in the middle of the University campus. She too wanted to give
a gift back to UND.
knew as she passed the statue that the Soaring Eagle should be surrounded
by prairie grasses and flowers. She carried that vision to others. And
quite magically, others were thinking the same, including faculty members
Glinda Crawford (environmental studies/sociology, who was her Knowing
Nature teacher) and Kathleen Brokke (prairie horticulturist and
environmental historian). Both had been instrumental in establishing
the garden at the Lotus Meditation Center. Those first conversations
were a go. As a result, the seeds for the idea of Soaring
Eagle Prairie were planted and had begun to grow.
Eagle Prairie Planners
Eagle Prairie Planners was formed to organize the project, including
designing, planting and maintaining the plants in the soil and in the
hearts of those who are ready to connect with prairie. This eclectic
group had experience and/or desire for learning about prairie restoration,
prairie gardening, environmental history, indigenous peoples and prairie
landscapes, connection to place, communicating this initiative to others.
Arnesen (senior, graduating in Communications in 2002), from
the lakes and trees of Warroad, Minnesota, also has a prairie connection.
She had an image close to her heart of a photo taken when she was
a child of her family amidst prairie grasses and flowers. She along
with Jana, Jason, and technical consultant Cindy Grabe were instrumental
in the development of the web site. She and Jana helped us begin consideration
for public relations of the dedication event.
Kristy Berger (alumna, graduating in Communications
in 2001), from Center, North Dakota, was Vice President of the Student
Body in 2000-2001. She took the class Knowing Nature where
she came to recognize the significance of her home on the Great Plains
to who she is. She wanted to give something back to UND and worked
toward gaining administrative clearances for initiating the prairie
garden on central campus.
Kathleen Brokke (Integrated Studies/Women Studies)
is a prairie horticultural designer. The work of her hand and heart
is evidenced in public and private gardens around Grand Forks. An
environmental historian, she studies and performs in Chatauqua the
life of Grand Forks native Fanny Mahood Heath, a national leader in
horticulture who brought the stories of prairie plants to national
and international levels in the early 1900s.
Glinda Crawford (Environmental Studies/Sociology)
studies and teaches on the connection of humans to landscapes, and
brings people home to the prairie. She is a gardener who once sought
to have an English cottage garden in Grand Forks; after much labor
and continual replanting of sick and dead plants, she finally got
it that prairie plants were the ones who were supposed to be here.
She chairs Soaring Eagle Prairie Planners and teaches Knowing
Richard Crawford (Biology) comes from a wildlife biology
background and has moved into the study of prairie as an ecosystem
and prairie restoration. As a naturalist, he has helped humans throughout
his professional career to see the preciousness of the plants and
animals on prairie landscapes. He and his wife Glinda combine their
long term partnership bringing people home to place.
Jana Erickson (major in Communications) grew up in the
city (Eden Prairie). Yet, she thinks fondly of the connections her
family has to prairie. Her grandfather, from Hannaford, North Dakota,
has taught her to love prairie and prairie stories. She along with
Jason, Ivy and technical consultant Cindy Grabe were instrumental
in the development of the web site. She and Ivy helped us begin consideration
for public relations of the dedication. She wonders how Eden Prairie
got its name.
Della Kapocius (Center for Innovation/College of Business
Administration) has a great interest in gardening and learning about
prairie plants and prairie gardening. She just popped out of the blue
with hoe in hand indicating her interest in Soaring Eagle Prairie
and volunteering to help in any way that she could.
Jason Schaefer (junior, majoring in Interdisciplinary
Studies: Environmental Studies) was born and reared in Grand Forks.
He has recently lived in Spain and Missoula, Montana, where he pondered
the deep connection of the people to their landscapes: Why cant
we have that here? He is interested in recovering his own story
on the Great Plains. He, Ivy, Jana, and technical consultant Cindy
Grabe were largely responsible for launching the web site. Jason gave
tireless support to his peers in launching their grass and flower
web pages on this site.
Fred Schneider (Anthropology) has an interest in uses
of prairie plants by indigenous people of the region. He is an avid
vegetable gardener with interest in Native American gardens and protecting
heritage seeds. He was eager to learn about prairie gardening and
plants of the prairie region. And, he noted, I have a pickup.
Dorreen Yellow Bird (Community Journalist) is a Sahnish elder
concerned about restoring prairie knowledge of her people, particularly
children. She writes a regular column for the Grand Forks Herald where
she often shares her observations and experiences on prairie landscapes.
Her words are helping many people awaken to prairie landscapes.
from UND Finance & Operations and Facilities
get-go, essential and supportive links were established with key individuals
from Finance & Operations, and Facilities:
Gallager (Vice President, Finance & Operations) had just
arrived on the University campus in 2000. He had seen success in native
planting at his previous institution and through the "butterfly
gardening" work with children of his wife Marian. He knew its
potential and was very excited to see something similar happening
Paul Clark (Associate Director, Facilities) was central
during key times of decision making "on the ground". He
helped us consider logistics, smoothing the way for our work. Glinda
Crawford commented to him that the work of Facilities staff was largely
invisible (like "back stage", supporting "front stage").
Paul replied: "That's the way it is supposed to be."
Dale Kadelbach (Supervisor, Landscaping) with three
fulltime staff and 15-20 student assistants in the summer have responsibility
for grounds on a 550 acre university, which is no small job. This
includes planting 43,000 annual flowers, care of 5200 trees. Dale
orchestrated the background details for Soaring Eagle Prairie, including:
sod cutting, equipment availability, hoses and access to water, posting
markers for snowplows.
that garden would be primarily the work of committed and caring volunteers;
we would not add to the already stretched Finance & Operations/Facilities
workloads, plus we wanted to give space for our own caring of the University
community. At every step a close and supportive working relationship
with friends in Finance and Operations and Facilities was necessary
for the garden to take root and flourish. In academic settings, a disconnection
often exists between faculty/students and the personnel who keep the
institution running smoothly. This experience offered a bridge and community
across those invisible boundaries.
Disconnection with Prairie and Nature of our Human Family
planning Soaring Eagle Prairie, the Planners needed to reflect on the
surrounding communitys support for prairies. Just .1% of the tallgrass
prairie remains in the Red River Valley on the North Dakota side with
less than 1% remaining nationally. While it is easy to point fingers
as to who is responsible for the loss of prairie, the answer is not
so simple. In fact, the answer may very well be all of us.
Three factors figure dominantly in the loss of prairie: urban sprawl,
asphalt, and industrial farming. Yet, underneath is a major disconnect
of western (industrial) culture with nature. Since humans are creatures
who are part of nature, the loss of nature becomes a deep spiritual
loss. We become separated from who we were meant to be. A deep lack
of understanding and respect for the sacredness of life
results. That is the big picture, the context out of which our community
and our lives are set.
As for the "small picture" or local context, the University
campus and Grand Forks/East Grand Forks area represent carefully manicured
landscapes on a European tradition. That means mown lawns, annual flowers,
non-native trees and plants in generally orderly rows. Historically,
this style of landscaping was accomplished in Europe by aristocrats
who had money and human resources to create a carefully controlled look.
In this country today, this style of landscaping means heavy inputs
of energy (human, mechanical, fuel), chemicals, water, money, and continual
replacement of plants.
The Grand Forks/East Grand Forks area is surrounded by enormous fields
of industrial agriculture where there is zero-tolerance toward anything
other than the planted row crop. In fact, there is zero-tolerance toward
plants native to this continent.
local situation illustrated the lack of understanding and acceptance
of some people toward prairies. Recently, the Grand Forks City Council
decided to remove a Native prairie planting (established
in 1991) at the Columbia and Demers overpass, a high visibility area
within the community. This planting was not without its difficulties,
but was for the most part a mature prairie planting after 9 years; it
just needed a little more care. The prairie was shoulder on either side
to a busy 4 lane thoroughfare, where sand and salt, exhaust and oil
from roadways choked prairie plants along the edge; this small strip
of edge was almost impossible to groom as you stood three feet from
cars whizzing by at 35 miles per hour. As a result, the weeds came in
along the edge and was all that some people saw.
the interior was lush, showing signs of an established prairie. To walk
that prairie was to see plants forming communities, new plants appearing
which had never been planted, new butterflies and birds appearing and
making their homes there. Unfortunately, its location amidst heavy traffic
prohibited gentle walks on the prairie and prairie/human interaction.
However, teachers and students in the public schools were using the
prairie planting for education. Regardless, the voices against this
patch of prairie became louder than those who loved it (and had not
recognized that it was at risk). But perhaps, that prairie planting
had been before its time and we could learn from that experience. And
just perhaps, many in our midst were soon ready to hear and experience
the story of prairie that had been denied them.
Look: Prairie Initiatives Growing Around Us
same time, we watched prairie initiatives being planted and flourishing
all around us. Many people were recognizing the great loss of tallgrass
prairie. A movement across the Great Plains was arising to save and
protect the little that remained, to restore, and to celebrate our connection
to prairie landscapes. The evidences close to home were compelling:
National Grasslands in southeastern North Dakota were becoming an
object of great pride and identity. They (along with many other initiatives
across the Great Plains) were also becoming an example of the compatibility
of ranching and ecology.
Visionaries in northwestern Minnesota have worked to create a mosaic
of native prairie areas protected by various public and private agencies
along the Lake Agassiz Beach Ridge. Glacial Ridge east
of Crookston was just formed and at 25,000 acres is the largest prairie
restoration effort on the North American Continent.
Prairie Passages was underway to create a national tallgrass
prairie highway corridor along designated routes extending from south
Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota. This
pioneering partnership between these six states is funded by the National
Highway Administration. This highway corridor will extend just east
of us in northwestern Minnesota.
Add to that the interest in the Lewis and Clark Expedition and curiosity
about the interior of the continent prior to European settlement.
The long standing North American Prairie Conference was providing
a vital link between restoration efforts on the Great Plains.
The Greenway along the Red River between Grand Forks/East Grand Forks,
and from Lake Traverse (South Dakota) through Minnesota/North Dakota
ending at Lake Winnipeg (Manitoba) was attracting energy and imagination
for transformation in our region. Nature (the River) could become
a central thread of the fabric and a friend in our lives. For those
who live in Greater Grand Forks, this would be like living next to
Initiatives in the public schools were arising . Some schools in the
area have initiated their own prairie plantings with great success
and often good coverage in the local news: South Middle School, Valley
Middle School, East Grand Forks Middle School. Moorhead (Minnesota)
third graders focus on a prairie year, including planting seedlings
and transplanting them to a restored prairie area (Buffalo River State
Nature-based tourism was big news with events large and small; the
first Sullys Hill Birding Festival (Ft. Totten) in 2000 brought
in 1500 visitors from 19 states and 5 Canadian provinces). In 2002,
the planning committee for the Annual Festival of Birds at Detroit
Lakes, Minnesota, describes those first 5 years as so much fun they
added another day (http://www.detroitlakes.com/).
Prairie Days in North Dakota were just beginning to be scheduled;
for the first official Prairie Day in 2002, 150 people descended upon
tiny McLeod, North Dakota, in the Sheyenne National Grasslands to
learn about prairie. This summer initiative is likely to move about
the state featuring prairies in our midst. In 2001, the International
Prairie Tour (between North Dakota, Minnesota, and Manitoba) scheduled
its long running 3 day tour bringing together people with long-standing
commitments to prairie as well as newcomers to the fold. The Dakota
Science Center scheduled regular monthly prairie tours through the
summer and fall season in 2001 (http://www.dakota-science.org/).
The ambitious Pine to Prairie Birding Trail (which includes prairies)
in Minnesota extends 230 miles from Lake of the Woods (Warroad) through
Roseau, Thief River Falls, Detroit Lakes, and Fergus Falls. This trails
bird checklist includes 275 regular and 26 casual species. (http://www.mnbirdtrail.com/)
Cooperative experiences on prairie education and wisdom between Native
Americans and folks of European descent were emerging in magical ways,
indicating promise of potential to come. The work of the Dakota Science
Center with the Sahnish (Arikara) people is exemplary. (http://www.natureshift.org/Whawk/wh_index.html)
Dakota Humanities Council gave two Larry Remele Memorial Fellowships
to study notable figures in the history of the region. Anne Kelsch
(History) studied Alexander Henry, an explorer in northeastern North
Dakota during the early 1800s whose documentation of the natural world
prior to settlement gives us food for thought and helps us grasp the
significance of what has been lost. Kathleen Brokke studied Fannie
Mahood Heath, a national leader in horticulture whose advocacy for
prairie plants became internationally known. Fannie Mahood Heath lived
in Brenna Township of Grand Forks County from 1881-1931 on what would
now be 3 miles past I-29 on 32nd Avenue South. Kathleen has performed
Fannie Heath in Chatauqua across the state.
Kings Walk, Grand Forks Arnold Palmer signature golf course,
features native grasses and flowers. Even the contour of the golf
course simulates western North Dakota rolling prairie hills at a scale
of 1:10. A movement in golf course design incorporates native plantings.
Most of the Planners had had significant experiences with the public
which showed a deep yearning of many for prairie knowledge and need
to celebrate the place that is home. The time was right for a prairie
planting and educational effort at the center of the University campus.
Essential for Learning
of age, many folks in our times are experiencing a deep yearning for
a simple and fundamental connection to landscape, or connection to place.
University students and others ask questions like:
what does tallgrass prairie look like?
does it feel like to be on a prairie?
You mean most of it is gone; yet that was all that was here
Why did (and do) people try to take it all away?
Where can I see prairie now?
What would it take to bring some back?
How could I help bring back prairie so my children will experience
Can I grow prairie plants in my yard?
have vast libraries telling the human story at the intersection of book,
virtual reality, and human mind/imagination. Yet, we need gardens and
prairies where we can see and experience nature as nature is. The hard
reality is that much of the tallgrass prairie has been removed. So where
do we go to learn about it?
While the library and Internet provide significant ways to learn about
prairies, they are only a part of our educational solution. Glinda Crawford
remembers her former Dean Henry J. Tomasek telling a story from early
in his educational career. Adolescents were taught to type in a rural
school without typewriters; they were taught on a "tablecloth"
where the keyboard was displayed. This example is almost humorous in
the context of our times. We know that "real" is almost always
a better and more meaningful educational experience. Yet because so
much of the tallgrass has been taken away (particularly in our area),
we too are limited to something other than real. While books and web
sites (including this one) add to the fullness of our prairie learning
experiences, they are no substitute for the real thing.
Through those real experiences, the land speaks and has innumerable
lessons for us. While standing in tallgrass, we observe the dynamics
of prairie communities. We see ourselves as part of nature
rather than separate from it, essential teachings for our times. Anyone
who has worked with prairie knows this land wants to be prairie. The
teachings unfold as we see individual plants, watch a butterfly settling
into the garden, touch the plants, hear bees buzz through the garden,
smell monarda (a mint), witness a squirrel feverishly store food for
the winter, sit next to the garden and soak in the experience, see how
prairie plants hug the snow and soil in the fury of a blizzard while
bare annual beds do not. The teachings are innumerable and every day
is a different.
The prairie garden becomes a library, a major educational tool: teaching
about prairie soils, plants and creatures who reside there, knowing
intimately the story of this place and our place within it, pondering
and connecting with our own stories, coming to know and celebrate the
stories of our families and those who came before, soaking in and celebrating
that intimate bond of nature in our lives. We come to question our place
in these things. For many, we study and experience restoration as we
roll up our sleeves to take our place in an historic movement helping
us to connect with the Great American Plains. We are restoring some
of the damage done. We begin to see prairie gardens around our homes,
businesses, and parks.
Eagle Prairie has direct potential to maximize and teach about health.
The Universitys current wellness initiative recognizes seven components:
physical, emotional/psychological, spiritual, occupational, social,
intellectual, environmental. The prairie garden at UND connects with
The following is a beginning discussion of what prairies teach humans
about health. Many of these are deep and fundamental concepts
which place nature in an age-old position of teacher and healer. This
is often outside the box of conventional modern Western thinking, which
views humans as separate from nature. These thoughts and images represent
a way to reconnect with these important teachings:
develop the prairie garden, we learn about sense of place.
That is the place where we come from or the place where we live. It
is the place to which we are intimately bound in ways that may or
may not be known to us. In western culture, we live as separate from
the landscape. Our people do not know where they are from and as a
consequence do not know completely who they are. Glinda Crawford tells
the story of two Native American students in her class who introduced
themselves in their traditional way: "First, I will tell you
about the land that I come from; second: I will tell you about my
family; and third, I will tell you about myself. But, when you know
the land and my family, then you will know who I am. In our
times, we are learning the significance of the grasslands interior
of the Great North American Continent: the Great Plains as it exists
in its own right and in our lives. This is a story that has been long
denied to many of us. We are coming home to place. A greater sense
of meaning of the prairie and the people should result.
The more integrated we are with the landscape, the more we live with
nature (and our true nature), and the more peaceful and centered our
lives typically become. We gain that quiet center that is so needed
in our fast-paced industrial society.
As we garden, we learn about natures rhythms. Quietly but persistently,
the Earth Mother teaches us what it takes to survive and thrive. The
garden can become a great teacher, as we learn to listen.
Prairie plants need clean air, clean water, warm sun, rich nutrients
of the soil to survive. Prairie plants do not thrive (or survive)
with the use of toxic chemicals. We live in an increasingly polluted
world. These toxins (poisons) are not good for humans either.
We are learning about humans as part of (rather than over)
the circle of life. We find we are surrounded by the infinite wonder
of a family of beings, many of whom have been waiting patiently for
our return. We are finding our way humbly toward our place in the
scheme of things.
Gardening is good physical exercise if done within ones limits
and with a caring teacher.
Restoring prairie can be healing, both to the Earth and to humans.
We bring back the prairie plants; other critters (like birds and butterflies)
will arrive soon after because their homes are being restored after
long absence. We are healing the Earth in our own limited way but
also healing the split of humans toward the Earth. We are coming home.
We live at a time period of massive human alteration of natural landscapes
on a worldwide level. Evidence supports the fact that our practices
put our survival as a species at risk. Arising around the world and
particularly in Western culture is a powerful and many faceted movement
where humans seek to live as part of nature rather than as separate.
Thomas Berry believes that for us to survive, we need to move into
an ecological age. Our own small steps are in that direction. Many
who do this work see themselves in an historical role of great service.
Our grandchildren will be glad that we did.
Many in Western culture have forgotten the sacredness of life itself.
The prairie experience gives us a gift of seeing and feeling the exquisiteness
of life. We are part of that web. To have this experience and to feel
this sacredness alters the footprints of humans on the Earth.
Designed to Maximize Success
Eagle Prairie was designed to maximize success and potential acceptance.
We cannot make everyone come to know and love prairie, but we can extend
a bridge. We considered the tension between many people and prairie.
We tried to understand it, exploring its roots. Our intent was to work
with others as much as they were willing. We considered the growing
openness in our midst toward prairie and its story. These elements were
integral to the physical design of the garden and the planned activities
around it. The following elements were designed to meet these ends:
Brokke designed the garden as more of a landscaped garden with specimen
plants rather than a wild flowing native prairie look. We did not
believe everyone was quite ready to accept this more natural look.
In addition, this approach seemed more respectful of the tradition
in our community toward controlled gardens. Further, the garden is
next to showy annual beds. We needed a garden which would hold its
own with controlled beds high on constant color.
During the growing season (that first year), we kept fairly regular
traffic in the garden, including volunteers to tend it, classes, discussions
with significant publics telling the story of the prairie. Our belief
is that the more people are seen in the garden tending it, enjoying
it, learning from it, the more it will belong there. As we come into
that second year, "use" is happening on its own.
We pay attention to litter in the area. We live in a windy place and
our people dont pick up after themselves very well. The plants
become homing sites for litter in wind. We make routine visits to
the garden to tidy up and encourage anyone visiting there to do the
We keep after weeds. Most people show no tolerance for weeds in public
gardens, although some would not recognize the difference between
a weed and a native prairie plant. In fact that is precisely the problem.
Native prairie plants have been labeled weeds. The weeds we keep after
are those that are invasive exotic species which would take over a
bed if we would let it. We wont.
We planted a few more Black-eyed Susans that first year than we will
have over time. A lot of folks have attachments to this showy flower.
"Susans" are easy to grow and put good fairly long lasting
color over the summer season.
We have planned various activities around the garden, including opening
the soil (April 16, 2001) and dedication (April 23, 2002).
We have invited the press to help tell the story and spread the word.
The plants will be marked for identification.
This web site is being used to interpret the garden, to encourage
peoples connection with it, to summarize questions and comments
that Soaring Eagle Prairie Planners have received. We intend that
people visiting the garden will be able to note names of plants and
connect with the web site for their stories.
In the early stages, the garden may include more flowers than grasses
simply because our people are more accepting of flowers and not quite
as understanding of grasses. This, however, is a grassland region,
and the grasses made the region what it is. Fewer varieties of grasses
were found on the prairie and far greater numbers of varieties of
flowers were present, yet grasses were the dominant "bio-mass".
More and more grasses will be added over time, although the majority
of the plants are likely to be flowers (forbs).
We are listening to the comments and questions of the garden. And
in some cases, we are acting on comments and recommendations. Richard
Crawford has asked administrators to direct negative comments to him.
So far none have been received. In fact, the response has been more
positive than we had ever dreamed it would be in the initial stages.
Some have had suggestions which would insure the success of the garden;
for example, several individuals suggested that benches near the garden
would be nice. That plan is in the works and should be completed sometime
Crawford, Professor, Environmental Studies, Dept. of Sociology &
Criminal Justice, Box 7136, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks,
ND 58202. e-mail: email@example.com