Ruth Hopkins: Protect grasslands as ancestors intended

"For plains Tribes, the preservation of grasslands is crucial to the survival of our culture. Its unique configuration of Native plants and grasses provide us with medicine, tools, shelter, and food.

Grasslands furnished grazing space for the horses and buffalo herds that our existence depended upon. Natives who lived there adapted to the distinct nature of the plains as an environment. As a result, the grassland biome as an ecosystem, along with every living organism it supports, plays an important role in our ceremonies, sacred rites, and clandestine knowledge.

Only five percent of tall grass prairie still remains; making it the rarest of all ecosystems on Earth today. Grasslands thrived on the plains of North America for thousands of years. Before European settlers came, the whole central interior of the United States was a fertile plain. Most of our natural grasslands were plowed or fragmented into nonexistence by farmers tilling land to seed for crops. The corn belt of the United States would not exist had it not been for tall prairie grassland. The large underground biomass of those original native plants is responsible for creating some of the most productive soil on Earth. Grasslands are also endangered by urban sprawl, the introduction and spread of invasive non-native plant species, and the suppression of natural fires that would have otherwise helped balance the prairie ecosystem."

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Ruth Hopkins: Grassland Preservation (Indian Country Today 4/13)

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