The Vesper Meadow Education Program in Southern Oregon is building a culture of land stewardship and nature connection. They are up-cycling a model for people-powered ecological restoration, scientific monitoring, native food cultivation, and nature-inspired art. These varied ways of relating to the land are integrated through hands-on programming and collaboration with diverse partners. The joy of this work is shared through the creation of education materials, art, and media.
Their programming is based at the Vesper Meadow Restoration Preserve, a 1,000 acre preserve and demonstration site in the heart of the biologically diverse Cascade-Siskiyou region. Vesper Meadow’s programs serve all ages and provide an integrated approach to sustaining the human-nature connection.
Core to their vision is the belief that ecological restoration is synonymous with cultural revival. They partner with Tribes of record (evidenced by ceded lands, treaties, and case law) and are working in collaboration with community partners to establish an Indigenous-led network to fulfill self-determined goals guide restoration and education efforts at Vesper Meadow and throughout Southwest Oregon.
Roundhouse Foundation supported the Tribal Partnership for First Food Restoration and Education project at Vesper Meadow in 2021. This project built upon newly developed partnerships with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz and Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde for planning restoration of First Food plants, cultural reconnection with ancestral lands, and education program development.
“With the support of Roundhouse, we have been able to grow our collaboration with Tribal members, planning for First Food restoration projects at the Meadow, and the creation of Native-informed curriculum about fire ecology and cultural use of fire in Oregon,” says Jeanine Moy, Program Director. “I’m full of gratitude and excitement as Vesper Meadow develops partnership with Roundhouse. Their initial support has been a great way to jump start our Tribal partnerships. They have shown much grace with first-hand understanding of our work and have gone so far as to connect us with new partners around the state.”
The Vesper Meadow Education Program works with Southern Oregon University for the Indigenous Gardens Network (est. 2020), an Indigenous-led coalition to bring together Tribal members and conservation groups in southwest Oregon. Developing projects will help restore Tribal connections with their homelands and important First Food plants across the region. First Foods initiatives are reciprocal: the foods provide cultural and physical health benefits to people, and the people maintain the health of First Foods and their ecosystems through tending practices like burning, seed dispersal, plant division, weeding, and appropriate harvesting methods. This also serves the broader community who benefits from engagement with Indigenous understandings and will help to inform the conservation community of Native goals for land management and restoration.
The initial phase of the project, conducted in 2020, involved listening sessions with Tribal members and identified the most significant barriers to reconnection with their southern Oregon homeland: travel costs, historical trauma, safe and available access for traditional tending and harvest, and lack of quality partnerships. In 2021, Vesper Meadow worked with Tribal partners to develop a collaborative First Food Management Plan and place-based events (for post-pandemic times) that would address these barriers. By identifying barriers and following the goals of Tribal members for establishing First Food restoration and education projects they are setting a foundation for long-term partnerships.
Together with support from Roundhouse Foundation and the Siletz Tribe, Vesper Meadow created an Oregon placed-based curriculum for 4th – 10th grade. The Fire Ecology and Human Relationship Curriculum is an interdisciplinary science curriculum that covers fires’ connections with biodiversity, Indigenous culture, land management history, climate change, and social impacts today. It provides teachers with lessons, materials, videos, and background information to effectively teach about the role of fire in Oregon’s ecosystems and how humans have interacted with fire past and present to get students thinking critically about solutions for a fire-adapted future.
In 2022, Vesper Meadow Education Program is looking forward to launching the Fire Ecology and Human Relationship Curriculum and providing teacher workshops, hosting Tribal visits at the Vesper Meadow Restoration Preserve, furthering Tribal-led restoration projects, and growing the regional IGN network.
Photos and logo courtesy of Vesper Meadow Education Preserve.
Left: Native camas lily seed pod from Vesper Meadow Restoration Preserve.
Upper right: Students prepare for a native plant stewardship walk at Vesper Meadow Restoration Preserve – Photo by Linda Thomas.
Lower right: Collage of curriculum from the Fire Ecology & Cultural Use of Fire Curriculum.