It can be paralizing. All the things happening in the world that makes our hearts hurt. How do we even bring ourselves to get out of bed in the morning? To be honest, I don’t watch or read the news. I try to avoid reading the headlines of newspapers while standing in line at the supermarket. However, the ones that do seem to jump out and catch my attention are the stories of good news, stories of positive change and eduction. Let’s face it, the popularity of cute kitten videos has made leaps and bounds in popularity over the last decade. Well, if you take a break from those kitten and puppy videos for just a second, and think about the inspiring people in our community doing positive things, I promise it will make your heart happy. You may even find the desire to get out of bed and get dressed today! Ok, but first, just one more cut cat video...
As I stood in line at the grocery store, the smiling face of Carol Daniels jumped out at me from the cover of Saskatoon’s Bridges Magazine.
Carol is the type of person who makes your heart happy. I had the pleasure of getting to know her on the Saskatchewan Cultural Artist Exchange tour a few years back. As I got to know her, she told me all sorts of interesting stories about her life. Her strength, courage, spirit, and wisdom really shined through her being, and I just loved being in her presence. A true inspiration to women, she helped paved the way not only for women into journalism, but also for aboriginal people. She told me all about the 1960’s “scoop” and how she was taken from her birth family and placed with a white family. She went on to be the first First Nations person to anchor a national TV broadcast in Canada. Later on, after she started to re-connect with her heritage, Carol took up drumming which was traditionally reserved for the men in her culture. During the time on our artist tour, Carol told me she was inspired to write a book. And she did! Story-teller, Artist, Journalist, and now, writer, Carol Daniels just released a new book, inspired by the 1960’s scoop, Bearskin Diaries. Hoo-ray!
So with a happy heart, I began to think of other inspiring women right here in Saskatchewan who are driven to do meaningful, and important things. I decided to interview Elizabeth Beckolay. I got to know Elizabeth on a canoe trip in Northern Saskatchewan. Elizabeth was the guide, and I was the hired musician on the trip. I really admired Elizabeth’s deep connection with nature and was amazed to the point of “happy tears” at how passionate she is about preserving natural habitat in our province.
Can you tell me about the work you do with Native Prairie plants and why? I love plants. I love the Boreal forest and I love the Prairie. I’ve come to understand that most people don’t even know what native prairie is, this is because there is only 3% of this ecosystem left in North America. Saskatchewan has around 15% left, but that’s an old number so it may have changed. The Native Prairie is our most endangered ecosystem. The plants and insects that live in close symbiotic relationships follow each other down this path of possible extinction.
The loss of the prairie has been as much of a colonizing/ethnocidal act as the killing off of the Bison. With the loss of the Bison came the loss of deep symbiotic relationships between people, bison, plants and all species that depended on healthy prairie. This is followed by the loss of cultural knowledge generations old on a landscape that looks nothing like it did 200 years ago. If the plants are gone it doesn’t take too long to lose the language associated with those plants.
I feel a deep calling to plant. To salvage what remains. To recreate or co-create places for these species, these medicines, these stories and relationships. I’ve always wanted to know what it looked like here before settlers arrived, which species came from Europe or Asia, and what was here. One plant that I have come to love is Wild Turnip or Breadroot Psoralea esculenta. Mac Miller, who ran Miller’s Native Plants, taught me how to germinate the seed and now plants have established at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, where there is now the possibility to form a seed bank for plants like this; plants that use to be a staple food source and are now hard to find.
There are so many benefits to growing Indigenous Plants. I would encourage everyone to grow Indigenous flowers, grasses, shrubsand trees for the benefit of our 350+ Indigenous bee species and all the pollinator species that struggle with our monocultures. This will save you water and money...most are perennial so once they are established you can watch them grow for years, save seed and plant more. Check out the front of Confederation Park School or the Indigenous Pollinator Garden at Wanuskewin.
Are there any other special projects or environmentalism you've been involved in recently?
I teach outdoor/ecological education in any capacity that I can. I find it really concerning that youth in the school systems are math and language literate but completely ecologically illiterate. Many people are working to change this, acknowledging that there is a flaw in the system. I support any efforts that get kids out in natural areas. I wrote a song about this too that I hope to share soon.
I live on 40 acres that was pasture land, it was never cultivated for farming. I asked Elizabeth if she would come out for a visit and a walk around the property so she could help me identify some of the native prairie plants. I am looking forward to her visit!
Rosie & the Riveters support women’s projects around the world through microfinacing with Kiva.org. If you are interested in participating, you can visit our kiva group.
OK folks, there you have some good news! Have a happy and inspiring day!