A monarch butterfly dines on nectar from a chaste tree at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in 2016.
Published January 14, 2019
SULPHUR, Okla. — Chickasaw Cultural Center was recently honored by an international organization for its on-going efforts to preserve and protect the monarch butterfly.
The cultural center received a Communitas Award for the multifaceted programs, events and partnerships aimed at restoring the monarch’s dwindling population.
The award was presented in the Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical and Environmental Responsibility, Sustainability category.
Communitas is a Latin word, meaning people coming together for the good of a community.
In keeping with the spirit of the award, Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said that it is important to recognize everyone involved in this effort.
“Our employees have joined forces with numerous tribes, universities and other organizations to help protect and nurture the monarch butterfly,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “We believe it is vital to continue working together to preserve monarchs and other species vital to the health of our environment.”
A significant decline in the monarch butterfly population in the past 20 years, can be attributed to decreased availability of milkweed, according to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Chickasaw Nation Culture and Humanities Secretary Lisa John, center, Chickasaw Cultural Center Executive Officer Valorie Walters, left, and tribal director of horticulture Thalia Miller accept a Communitas Award presented to the Chickasaw Cultural Center for on-going efforts to preserve and protect the monarch butterfly.
Since 2015, the Chickasaw Cultural Center partnered with six Native American tribes to plant 50,000 milkweed plants throughout Oklahoma to increase the availability of the plants critical to monarch butterfly survival.
The Tribal Alliance of Pollinators includes the Chickasaw, Muscogee Creek, Seminole, Eastern Shawnee, Osage, Miami and Citizen Potawatomi.
Collaboration with Euchee Butterfly Farm and Monarch Watch, a University of Kansas-based program, has enhanced the effectiveness of the program.
Almost 20 other tribes have expressed interest in joining the effort.
The Chickasaw Cultural Center’s monarch butterfly initiative involves a multipronged approach including: constructing greenhouses to cultivate milkweed and other pollinator plants; hosting events to educate visitors about the butterfly and the importance of native plants to sustain the species; and working with other Native American tribes to address the initiative on a larger scale.
Located in the butterflies’ prime migration flight path, the Chickasaw Cultural Center’s 184-acre campus features numerous gardens containing butterfly-friendly native plants, including more than 45 butterfly gardens. One of the gardens contains educational panels about the plight of the monarch butterfly and serves as the primary butterfly garden for visitors.
In addition to planting milkweed on campus, the Chickasaw Cultural Center gives away thousands of milkweed and pollinator plants each year to visitors at special events focused on the monarch butterfly.
The Chickasaw Cultural Center initiated the Monarch Butterfly Watch in 2017, a day filled with activities including children’s crafts, special horticultural tours, milkweed plant giveaways, lectures and films.
The Chickasaw Cultural Center also celebrates National Learn About Butterfly Day with a special event. The topic is also a focus for many school group tours each year.
The Chickasaw Cultural Center, 867 Cooper Memorial Road, is open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call (580) 622-7130 or visit www.chickasawculturalcenter.com.