EAST LANSING, Mich. — Nichole Biber loves to garden.
“This front yard was just grass when we moved here, this is going into our fifth growing season," Biber said. “I'm someone who's had three children. So I know that I'm very good at just doing a little bit at a time, you know.”
Especially when it connects her to her indigenous heritage.
“Monodones is what we collectively refer to the insect as," Biber said. "So it's a little spirit beings, and that's like a connection of like, how that feeds your spirit because when there are many of them around, then you know that balance is intact.”
Biber has been working with the city of East Lansing to make sure the city recognizes Indigenous Peoples' Day.
“My response to that was always what can we do to make sure we're tying the ancestry and the heritage of the people to our ongoing efforts to keep revitalizing our culture and really focusing on the need to include the other beings that are not human that also were displaced,” Biber said.
She's always wanted to do more and even considered a garden. But she was approached with a bigger idea of changing the name of Abbot Road Park to one in the indigenous language of Michigan's three fire people.
“Planning it to be a name in the language, which we say initial Anishinaabemowin, will, I think get people's curiosity going to also have educational opportunities in that park, and also gathering spaces, to sort of take it towards where the realization of like, oh, this is an ongoing relationship, to the history of a place," Biber said.
The city of East Lansing has several places named after Theophilus Abbot, the third president of MAC from 1862-1884 and an English literature professor, with Abbot Road Park being one of them.
So when Biber heard about the idea to change the name, she loved it.
“I think connecting that to the indigenous heritage, those present on these lands, will also elevate that this is a connection to place that we all benefit from when there's a health to the ecosystem," Biber said.
Biber presented the idea to the East Lansing City Council, and they unanimously passed the proposal for Mayor Ron Bacon to create a renaming committee.
“I think we'll spend time there and just think about, like, what it is this space is feeling like and saying," Biber said. "Trust in our intentions of what will be and find the right name for that and our language.”
Biber said she hopes to include educational tools through out the park.
"We do want to incorporate the language as much as possible and connecting that to the different species that are there," Biber said. "It's the sort of education where you keep making connections, you know. You'll see one thing about it and maybe get some background on, like, why this word and how that relates to this particular plant, animal, tree, what have you.”
Biber also wants to restore some of the native plants and wildflowers, while getting rid of invasive species in the park.
“Even as a seed bank, eventually too as part of it, I think would be a nice way for people to kind of take that sense home with them of the, you know," Biber said. "There's a peacefulness, there's a restoration of the place and of the people."
Biber said she hopes to rename the park and start the restoration process of native plants later this year.
“We're looking at Indigenous Peoples' Day," Biber said. "So that's usually somewhere just after the first week of October.”
Biber hopes by changing the name and bringing a sense of honor to the indigenous community in East Lansing, will bring a sense of peace.
“I think that's a very good thing for the entirety of the community, and the mental health benefits that come from that as well," Biber saod. "Also the sense of agency and a much needed sense of hope, as we are all collectively sort of, at the space where a new way needs to be made where we're healing those old wounds and that primary one is the exploitation of the land, but we can steward and we can bring back.”
Abbot Road Park is currently closed due to construction on the Northern Tier Trail. That construction was originally expected to be finished in mid-August but has been extended.
The project originally only included removing and relocation of one section of the trail. It has now been expanded to include the removal and replacement of an additional section of the trail between Abbot and Chandler roads and the Sanderson Drain.
During the time of construction, sections of the trail will be closed, and trail users are advised to pay attention to detour signs and barricades.
The trail project is now expected to be complete by mid-September.
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