The Nan Awaya Heritage Farmstead is located in eastern Atoka County, Oklahoma, within the heart of the Choctaw Nation. This 160 acre parcel was allotted to a young Choctaw woman at the time of statehood, and although it has changed hands many times since then, it has never been subdivided. Not withstanding the loans that we're paying on it, we've never really seen this land as our "property". Instead, we feel more like we belong to the land. Our time on this land connects us with the buffalo hunters who left their stone tools here 7,000 years ago and with the waves of monarch butterflies that will hopefully still be visiting this land's wildflowers 10,000 years from now.
For occupying only 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile, we find ourselves on a diverse landscape. 120 feet of elevation change, many natural springs, and different soil types provide habitat for a variety of edible and culturally useful plants. Sadly, when we purchased this land, it had been seriously overgrazed for years, badly eroded, and logged. There was almost no grass on it.
Nan Awaya Farmstead is located in a region that was originally Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna, two of the most productive and diverse ecosystems in the world. As the American Heartland was farmed over, 98 % of the Tallgrass Prairie and an even higher percentage of the Oak Savanna were destroyed. The most basic goal of our farm is to restore this land into a functioning native ecosystem, one that can provide healthy food and raw materials for Choctaw cultural projects, while also proving the ecosystem services and habitats of a native landscape.
The American bison was one of the keystone species of this region. We have reintroduced a small herd of them to this farm, along with a couple of Choctaw ponies from the herd that Amy's grandfather once cared for. Monitoring regularly, we match the herd size to the land's carrying capacity. We've divided the land into 23 pastures and rotate our herd between them in such a way that it allows ample time for the native plants still surviving in the soil to rebuild. To date, we've documented 28 species of native grasses and 151 species of native wildflowers and forbs, which have come up from seeds and roots surviving in the soils of the farm. Here since time immemorial, these native plants are as much a part of this landscape as the sun and soil. If you want to see Eastern Gammagrass (a plant that was one common on the Southeastern Oklahoma landscape but has been grazed into oblivion), if you want to see Slender Indiangrass (critically threatened in Oklahoma), if you want to see Blueflower Eryengo (a unique native wildflower not before documented for our county), Nan Awaya Farmstead is a place where you can, on a working farm.