Northern Cheyenne plant education event aims to grow community connections at Sheridan Food Forest
Northern Cheyenne tribal members Linwood Tall Bull and his son Randall know a thing or two about plants – the father and son duo are ethnobotanists and educators from Chief Dull Knife Community College on the Cheyenne Reservation in Montana. The pair will share stories and traditional uses of Indigenous plants at the Sheridan Food Forest on Thursday, August 31st.
Pennie Vance, the Agriculture and Local Foods Organizer for the Powder River Basin Resource Council, said the gathering is an opportunity for community members to learn more about their Northern Cheyenne neighbors.
“Anytime we can have someone who's an intimate part of that community who can come and talk to us a little bit about their history and their culture – we benefit enormously,” she said. “And I think there are a lot of people in the area who are wanting that – wanting to know more, wanting to know our neighbors, wanting to have our communities more integrated.”
Linwood Tall Bull has spent over thirty years working with elderly programs and tribal health programs as the director of the Shoulder Blade Independent Living Center. He has also helped teach doctors how to diagnose Native patients using Native sign language.
His son Randall Tall Bull is a skilled craftsman of traditional tools, weaponry, and ancient skills and will carry on the ethnobotanical teachings of his father as well as his grandfather William Tall Bull.
Vance said the Sheridan Food Forest is thrilled to host the Tall Bulls.
“We're very fortunate to have all that come together here on our food forest, which is a community project in itself. So it's just taking our community and expanding it a little bit, bridging some of the cultural gap,” she said.
The Sheridan Food Forest was started in 2016 by Carol LeResche and provides a space for local community members to walk, reflect, and forage for food at no cost. The Food Forest is home to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including berries, apples, squash, corn, potatoes, and grapes, as well as a perennial pollinator garden for bees.
Vance said she hopes the event will help introduce more community members to the Food Forest, which she called “one of those best hidden secrets” in town.
“It's not incorporated or any of that – just volunteers who come and do all of the work and the maintenance. The city has provided the land and they do let us use the water, so it's pretty unique,” she said.
Buffalo berries, skunk bushes, sage and elderberries have already been planted in the Food Forest leading up to the event, and more plants will also be brought to the space by Alisha Bretzman and David Malituch of Piney Island Native Plants.
Several plants that are indigenous to the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation will be planted in the Food Forest as part of the gathering. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. and is open to all.