CITIZEN POTAWATOMI NATION – Seven Oklahoma tribes have pledged to plant weeds. Milkweed, specifically, and it’s not a move intended to make your nose itch. It’s to preserve and save Monarch butterflies.

Monarchs are found throughout the United States and a majority of them migrate up to 3,000 miles to overwinter in Mexico. However, due to weather conditions, rising pesticide use and loss of habitat, the North American population of these black and orange butterflies has plunged from 1 billion to fewer than 60 million.

These butterflies depend on milkweed. It’s the primary food source for Monarch caterpillars and the only place where the female butterflies lay their eggs.

“If you look at a tribal jurisdiction map of Oklahoma you can see that nearly all of the Monarch’s migration in critical condition falls within tribal boundaries,” said Jane Breckenridge, during a community garden workshop held at the CPN earlier this year. Breckenridge is the owner of the Euchee Butterfly Farm located in Leonard, Oklahoma.

“We haven’t seen any interest about this come from the leadership of the state of Oklahoma. However, I knew all along to save the Monarchs and other endangered pollinators that this effort needs to come from the tribes,” she said.

And the tribes have agreed to make the effort. The Chickasaw Nation, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Eastern Shawnee, Miami Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Osage Nation and Seminole Tribe have all pledged to plant at least 2,500 milkweed plants on tribal property this year and another 2,500 next year.

The Citizen Potawatomi placed the first of their 2,500 pledge plants May 10 near their community garden on the grounds of the tribe’s eagle aviary.

“We’re looking to build up their habitats in our Pottawatomie County community, which are along their migration path from Central Mexico to the Great Lakes,” said Dr. Kelli Mosteller, Cultural Heritage Center Director for the CPN. “Our tribe, like many others, understands the importance of these creatures on our lands and agricultural sector, so we were thrilled to participate with such a fantastic group of partners.”

Mosteller, along with tribal citizens and employees, worked together to establish the tribe’s community garden in 2014.

“Our main goal with our garden is to bring community together, which includes all of the animals and insects that gather there as well,” said Mosteller. “A billion Monarchs have disappeared and we want to know what we can do to not further damage their habitat.”

Dr. Chip Taylor, director of Monarch Watch, a nonprofit education, conservation, and research program based at the University of Kansas, took part in the planting.

“Oklahoma tribes have taken it upon themselves to do something and that’s a great thing,” said Dr. Taylor. “This is the only region where seven different communities are coming together to accomplish a common goal. Our goal is to recreate the natural habitat that occurred here in the past.”

To learn more about statewide efforts at protecting the Monarch butterfly, visit or visit the CPN Community Garden Facebook page at