Story and photo by Bruce Thorson
July 29, 2009, Santee Sioux Reservation, Neb: On a hilltop overlooking the Missouri River, Larry Thompson (left), 56, heads downhill to roll up the tape measure while Nathan Reece, 28, full-blood Ojibwea, and Luke Schneiders, 21, part Santee Sioux, identify the grasses growing on the Santee Sioux Reservation. All three work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and are working on a burn project that began in 2002. According to Thompson, "Fields need to be burned to help them be healthy."
He went on to say that with all the fire fighting efforts over the past few decades, the natural burning of the fields has stopped. As a result, the weeds and other plants are choking out the good grass. This project is designed to see if burning the fields will reverse the process and allow the good grass to flourish.
The tribe uses this land to graze more than a thousand head of cattle and about 40 head of buffalo.