In 2013, the Euchee Butterfly Farm launched the Natives Raising Natives Project.
Inspired by a successful program in Costa Rica that trains indigenous people to raise butterflies as an alternative to logging off tropical rainforest, this project is training citizens of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation as butterfly farmers, providing all necessary start-up materials and on-going technical support for them to commercially raise butterflies on their own land in rural Oklahoma.
This project is about much more than job creation. Butterfly farming is a sustainable form of agriculture that creates economic self-sufficiency for tribal members, but just as importantly, it is also a hands-on tool for engaging Native youth in science. Native people are significantly under-represented at the university level and beyond in the STEM fields, and we are addressing that issue by appealing to younger learners through family-centric butterfly farming. We have seen firsthand that butterflies spark the interest of the even the most disinterested learner, and this project is allowing us to spread the reach of this fantastic teaching tool.
The third goal of the Natives Raising Natives Project is to increase appreciation across all communities for Oklahoma's native butterflies, and to build awareness about the need to protect threatened species of butterflies and the fragile ecosystems that support them.