MARQUETTE - Groups of people from across the Upper Peninsula are banding together in the coming weeks to undertake an effort of huge proportions.
The Cedar Tree Institute has organized the event, which looks to plant 10,000 new northern white cedar trees throughout the U.P. in just three weeks.
"This is a restoration effort to bring back a sacred tree to the integrity of the Great Lakes basin," said Jon Magnuson of the Cedar Tree Institute. "When we heal the Earth, we also heal ourselves. The effort is being carried through by a collaborative effort of people of all walks of life, ages and social status."
The U.P. population of northern white cedars has dropped significantly as a result of logging. Most companies don't replant white cedar that is cut down, since it takes much longer to grow than other types of trees. Magnuson said no commercial nurseries carry the tree in the U.P. either.
According to Keweenaw Bay Indian Community tribal member Mike Shelafoe, who is helping in the planting effort, the northern white cedar is a sacred tree in the U.P. native tradition.
"The cedar is one of our medicine plants," he said. "I harvest branches to use in my ceremonies that I do. It's used in smudgings and things like that."
Tree Distribution Sites
Saturday - Moosewood Nature Center, (Marquette)
June 30 - Our Redeemer Lutheran (ELCA) Church (Newberry)
July 7 - Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp (Crystal Falls)
Pick-up times: 9 A.M.- noon
Blessing of the Trees: 10 A.M. Suggested donation per tree: $2
Planting of the 10,000th tree
5 p.m., July 11 at Presque Isle Park Pavilion
email - email@example.com
Shelafoe lauded the project for its impact on the environment as well as for its attempt to involve young people, educating them on the importance of reversing the loss of U.P. white cedar.
"It's been a pretty good project. We've gotten a lot of kids involved, teaching them the importance of taking care of our Earth," Shelafoe said.
Doug Russell of Marquette is also a part of the event. He said as the executive director of Delta Green, a local company that works to encourage energy efficiency, he is invested in continually improving the quality of the local environment.
"Our (northern white cedar) population is decreasing in our forest and if we can replant it, to be able to have that kind of an impact, the peninsula needs us," Russell said.
According to Magnuson, the trees can live for hundreds of years, growing in such unexpected places as granite rock cliffs.
He said it's important to preserve the northern white cedar as a relic of the U.P., and an important part of the native tradition, adding that trees don't just impact Native American's spirituality, but that of many other cultures as well.
"The tree is one of the essential symbols of spirituality around the world," Magnuson said. "The oak tree identifies with the Celtic tradition and the maple tree is the national tree of Canada, and in the Judeo-Christian tradition the biblical narrative opens with a creation story in which there is a tree of life.
The tree also is a symbol of a connection between heaven and Earth. Here in the Upper Peninsula the northern white cedar tree is part of the original ecosystem that predates any recorded human activity."
A ceremony will be held July 11 at the Presque Isle Pavilion, where the 10,000th tree will be planted.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.