They came ready to work, the preschool through teenage youngsters wielding hoes, shovels and rakes and they dug right in, planting flowers and crops on Indigenous Youth Garden Spring Planting Day held at Denver Indian Center (DIC) May 22.
They rested, too, ate snacks, and watched as adults helped out with some of the heavier digging and hauling to prepare for the squash, beans, pumpkins and corn that will transform the front of the tan-colored building into a showplace for traditional crops.
Talk among younger gardeners centered on the amazing regenerative power of severed earthworms, while older workers talked about the depth of finely worked soil required for some of the heirloom southwestern corn, planted deep and with tenacious roots that may need three feet of permeable soil to develop stable stalks.
At the side of the building perennials from a local nursery were waiting to be planted and their purchaser said they “may not be indigenous—but they’re pretty.”
“And they were indigenous somewhere,” another volunteer noted.
“Hope they make it,” a third said under her breath.
It’s been an unusually wet, cool spring in northern Colorado—a lengthier transition than the snow-one-day, summer-the-next of some years.
For DIC there are changes as well, challenges above and beyond the work required on a sunny day in a volunteer garden.
The federal Workforce Program at DIC is “basically out of money until July,” Jay Grimm, DIC executive director, said at a recent interagency meeting. He said that stipends will resume then, and that in the meantime non-cash referrals and other Workforce services remain in effect.
The cash shortage was basically caused by the recession, which has meant that eight to nine times more people were served by the Workforce Program than has historically been the case, he said.
Another transition for DIC will take place August 1 when Denver Indian Family Resource Center (DIFRC) moves from its present location to DIC. DIFRC is also noting effects of the recession: “These economic times are really challenging for our families,” said John Jewett, DIFRC executive director.
Families now in crisis have four or five needs rather than one or two; for example, not only truancy for school-age children, but also domestic violence and mental health/substance abuse issues, he said.
DIFRC operates a variety of family-strengthening programs, including those related to the Indian Child Welfare Act.