Tag Archives: natives

Human migration is unstoppable

I’m a history buff, and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that the history of the world is the history of migrations. A look at North America is instructive.

The tribes we call “native” to the United States and Canada are descendants of people who crossed the Bering Strait from northern Asia, spreading south and east into the continent. Many centuries later, European migrants seeking greater opportunity — some of them religious zealots, others freethinkers — settled the East Coast. They moved westward over the next two centuries, displacing and, in some cases, annihilating native tribes. 

For centuries, slave traders captured and exported millions of Africans to the “New World” where they were sold as slaves. They were doomed to work as slaves their whole lives as were generations of their descendants. It took one of the most devastating wars in history to end slavery in the U.S. Decades after emancipation, millions of African Americans in the South joined what became known as “The Great Migration,” seeking better jobs and fairer treatment in the North and West.

In the mid-1800s, West Coast businessmen recruited Chinese to lay railroad tracks and work in fields and mines for little pay. Asian women were trafficked as prostitutes to serve men in the bustling cities and mining towns of the West. About 1.5 million Irish fled to the eastern U.S. to escape famine in Ireland.

Some Mexicans who have come to the U.S. in recent years may be the descendants of the Spanish-speaking people who conquered the American Southwest, which became part of New Spain, then Mexico. 

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans migrated to Florida in the wake of the 1950s revolution there, and tens of thousands of Vietnamese “boat people” who fled their ravaged land were welcomed to the U.S. in the 1970s and ’80s.

Every continent and region of earth has its own history of migration, some of it voluntary, some coerced. Migrations are caused by displacement from natural disasters or flight from war or persecution. They result from conquests and coerced resettlement of populations. They are also undertaken for adventure, opportunity and profit. 

Migration occurs without respect to procedures issued by governments. Laws do not deter them. Walls do not block them. Armies cannot shoot them all. Migrants brave deserts, seas, mountains and border guards. Human migration is inexorable.

The refugee crisis caused by chaos in Iraq and Syria has been years in the making. It requires a coordinated plan by the European Union, where refugees are now fleeing, and the United Nations. Negotiations over Syria must resume in Geneva. Until some measure of order is restored in Syria and Iraq, the exodus of millions will continue unabated.

Given the U.S. role in destabilizing the region, it is shameful that we’ve agreed to take in only 2,000 Syrian refugees.

Meanwhile, hysteria about undocumented migrants in the U.S. is being fanned by many Republican candidates for president. Some want to spend billions on a massive wall along our border with Mexico, while our own bridges and schools are deteriorating around us. 

Instead of wasting money and sowing hatred, all candidates should address how migrants and their children can be integrated into American life. All Americans should get used to the inevitability of a more fluid and diverse society.

U.S. Wildlife Services killed more than 2 million wild animals in fiscal 2013

The Wildlife Services section of the U.S. Agriculture Department killed more than 2 million wild animals in fiscal 2013, including wolves, coyotes, bears, mountain lions foxes, eagles and other animals.

The increase of almost a half-million animals since fiscal year 2012 represents a 29 percent increase in the program’s killing and ends an overall downward trend since 2008.

The federal program’s latest kill report includes more than 320 gray wolves and one endangered Mexican wolf, 75,326 coyotes, 419 black bears, 866 bobcats, 528 river otters, 3,706 foxes, three golden eagles and a bald eagle, according to the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity.

The division also killed 12,186 black-tailed prairie dogs and destroyed more than 30,000 of their dens.

“Rather than dialing back in the face of criticism, the program that has the nerve to call itself ‘Wildlife Services’ seems to be putting its foot on the pedal in its systematic slaughter of America’s wild animals,” said Amy Atwood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, which has petitioned to reform the program. “These numbers pull back the veil on a staggering killing campaign, bankrolled by taxpayers, that’s happening every day beyond the view of most Americans.”

The new data reveal the federal program has increased its killing despite a growing public outcry, an ongoing investigation by the Agriculture Department’s inspector general and calls for reform by scientists, members of Congress and nongovernmental organizations.

“Wildlife Services has long been out of step with the values of Americans, and the new figures make clear it has no interest in changing,” said Atwood. “These appalling new numbers show that Wildlife Services is simply thumbing its nose at the growing number of Americans demanding an end to business as usual at Wildlife Services.”

Since 1996, Wildlife Services has shot, poisoned and strangled by snare more than 26 million native animals.

Last December, the Center and other animal welfare and environmental groups submitted a petition to the Agriculture Department calling for new rules to reform the program.

On the Web …


Gardening: Native plants offer fruit, beauty

More and more gardens are going native these days. Butterfly weeds are edging out delphiniums, clethra is hobnobbing with flowering dogwood, and sunflower is strutting like a prima donna.

Fruit plantings, though, are stalled in the past, with many people still planting apples, peaches or pears — all non-natives.

Yet native fruits are worth planting even if they are less familiar. Many are highly resistant to pests, which is more than can be said for apples, peaches and the like. In addition to distinctive and delectable flavors, some native fruits also are borne on handsome plants that can mingle in the landscape with other ornamentals.

Let’s foray out into the American wilderness and look at a sampling of such delectables (also covered in my book “Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden,” Timber Press, 2008).


Why not start with trees, with American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)? This native lives up to its botanical name, meaning “food of the gods,” only if you choose one known to bear tasty fruits and can ripen them within your growing season. The best are something like a dried apricot that’s been soaked in water, dipped in honey and then given a dash of spice.

In the northernmost growing regions (into USDA Zone 4) or in coastal areas where summers stay cool, good choices are Szukis, Mohler, Yates and Dooley. In hot-summer areas and further south, choose from a slew of good varieties, including Early Golden, John Rick and Garretson. None of these varieties need another tree for cross-pollination, and all are draped throughout summer in languorous, slightly bluish leaves that, in autumn, turn a rich, golden yellow. With some varieties, the orange fruits cling to branches long after leaves drop, decorating the bare limbs like Christmas ornaments.

Mulberry (Morus rubra) is a native that perhaps would be more loved if it were more difficult to grow. (We also have non-native mulberries, and their hybrids with our natives — all delicious.)

This familiar fruit resembles a blackberry in shape, but ranges in color from deep black to red to lavender to pure white. Fruits on wild trees usually are cloying, appealing mostly to children. Illinois Everbearing and Oscar are among the best varieties — to adults — for their refreshing dash of tartness.

Mulberry leafs out late and fall color is inconsequential, so it is in summer that the tree comes into its own as an ornamental. Some weeping forms also bear fruit.

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a native tree with tropical aspirations. With large, drooping, lush leaves that resemble those of avocado, this is not the sort of plant you would expect to find in woodlands of the eastern U.S. It does have botanical connections with the tropics, being the northernmost member of the Custard Apple family, which includes such delicacies as the cherimoya and soursop.

Pawpaw sheds some of its tropical airs in the fall, when its leaves turn a clear yellow. The fruits, though, carry on the tropical theme. They are the size and shape of mangos and ripen in clusters like bananas. Inside, the fruit is creamy and tastes much like banana, with hints of pineapple, avocado, vanilla and mango.

Plant two different varieties for cross-pollination (and fruit from each).

Juneberry (Amerlanchier spp.), also known as serviceberry or shadblow, is a native tree more often planted as an ornamental than for its fruit. Early spring brings clouds of white or reddish blossoms; fall ignites the leaves in purples, oranges, and yellows; and the plants continue to earn their keep through winter with neat form and striped, gray bark.

The fruits look like blueberries but have a unique flavor that is sweet and juicy, with the richness of sweet cherries and a hint of almond.


If you are looking for a native, fruiting bush rather than a tree, you might again turn to juneberry. Bushy juneberries have the same qualities as the trees do, except that they are more multi-stemmed and shrubby.

And speaking of fruits that look like blueberries, let’s segue over to the real thing. Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum and V. asheii) would undoubtedly be planted as ornamentals if they were not so valued for their fruits. Clusters of blossoms dangle from the stems like dainty, white bells in spring, and the leaves turn a fiery red in autumn. Even in winter, blueberry’s red stems add welcome color to the landscape, especially against a snowy backdrop.

The secret to success with blueberries is a soil low in fertility, rich in humus and very acidic.

A blueberry relative also ideal as a native fruit is lingonberry (V. vitis-idaea). This half-foot-high plant sports evergreen leaves as lustrous as those of holly and as dainty as mouse ears.

In spring and again in summer, flowers dangle from lingonberry stems like rosy white urns. Lingonberry requires the same soil conditions as blueberry, and in fact grows well in a bed with lowbush blueberry (V. angustifolium).

Both spread to create an edible groundcover; they are as happy together in a garden bed as their fruits are in a jar of jam.

Perhaps the star performer among native plants offering beauty and good flavor is a relatively unknown currant, the clove currant (Ribes odoratum). At the turn of the 19th century, it was a common dooryard shrub whose large, yellow flowers would waft spicy fragrance indoors.

Clove currant is a tough plant, able to laugh off drought, heat and cold, as well as insects and diseases, deer and birds. The shiny, blue-black berries are aromatic, fairly large and have a sweet-tart flavor.