To help nature heal from conflagrations, the youth of the Colville Reservation teamed up with the Washington State University Extension to create seed bombs: balls of dirt clay and seeds dispersed to start new generations of native plants.
The hope is that the bombs will help Confederate tribes on the Colville Reservation in north-central Washington restore forests that have seen three major fires in the past seven years.
Last July, in the hottest and driest year in state history, the Chuweah Creek Fire burned more than 11,000 acres on the reservation, destroying homes and burning more than 34,000 acres of tribal forest land.
“Last summer, as in previous seasons, the Colville Reservation was ravaged by a wildfire,” said Linda McLean, director and 4-H educator with WSU Colville Reservation Extension. “The difference was that the 2021 fires threatened more residential areas, and many families, including young people, were affected by smoke, flames and the need to evacuate.”
For the project “Seed Bombs – Healing the Earth”, Colville Reservation Extension 4-H Youth Development Program collaborated with the Colville Confederate Tribesthe Mount Tolman Tribal Fire Center and the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs Natural Resources Division to teach youth how to make seed bombs.
Encased in clay and soil, the “bombs” are seeds of native plants chosen to attract pollinators, benefiting natural plant communities and agricultural crops. In nature, the “bombs” are broken down by the elements, allowing the seeds to germinate.
Tribal and extension educators have partnered with over 500 children from Lake Roosevelt, Nespelem and Keller Schools, Pascal Sherman Indian School, Nespelem and Keller Boys & Girls Club, Inchelium Behavioral Health, Nespelem Headstart and the SHARP Kids Afterschool program. Visiting classrooms this spring, they shared ideas about fire, pollinators and soil health, and worked with students and teachers to create the seed bombs.
In June, groups of students traveled to Chuweah Creek Fire burn sites and range areas, scattering seed bombs to control erosion and increase plant diversity and wildlife habitat. Other young people placed their seed bombs near the Smokey Bear sign on the Colville Tribal Agency campus. Each youth received a project pin as a token of appreciation and keepsake.
Round-trip field trips to these sites are planned, allowing students to see the living results of their efforts. McLean plans to continue the partnership.
“The Colville Reservation, like so many other places in the Pacific Northwest, experiences wildfires every year,” she said. “There are always places that need extra help with the rehabilitation of plant communities and soil health.”