Fort Washakie Schools planted traditional trees on campus today

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 12:23 AM CDT
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FREMONT COUNTY, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) -

Wind River Grow Our Own 307 donated 150 chokecherry trees to Fort Washakie schools last week, along with some black currant and red cedar trees purchased from the Wind River Conservation District. They are being planted this week as part of the class curriculum.

The 8th grade class at Fort Washakie School planted some of the chokecherry trees today, and the trees should produce berries within two to three years which can provide this traditional healing food for generations to come.

Fort Washakie Middle School Principal Owen St. Clair stated, “A tree to call their own on campus, so 20 years down the road they can come back and (say) ‘I’m going to pick my chokecherry tree for my berries for the summer and have my gotsup.”

Doeramb Gotsup is a chokecherry gravy made from the plant, traditionally used by Native Americans as an essential food source and medicine. Fort Washakie Middle School student, Kezia Washakie has a background of picking chokecherries with her family. Washakie stated, “Chokecherries are part of our tradition in our culture. In traditional ceremonies we have gotsup with our frybread and stew.”

It was important to plant them centrally on school grounds so that students and their families can pick fruit in the summer.

Mark Roy, Fort Washakie Middle School Science teacher added, “We have a fence along a walkway and we’re going to put some trees out there so that as they grow, people can walk by and harvest, but we want to make it really accessible to everybody and make it belong to the community.”

The planting is also a chance to apply what the students learn in the classroom. “More than just learning about what they read in the book, its about learning science and how to do science in the real world,” Roy added.

Melanie Daniels, a Ft. Washakie paraprofessional who’s on a committee with the Office of Indian Education with traditional gardening, says it’s important to teach this within the school day. Daniels noted that traditional activities taught at school are vital in “bringing cultural relevance to our students because they spend a significant amount of their day at school.”

“Balancing that culture piece with academics and combining those two in with our STEAM program too, has been a really big boost; a hands on experience for our students to get out here and plant their tree,” added Principal St. Clair

The school is doing another planting ceremony tomorrow, where community members are welcome to come, and enjoy a meal afterward.

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