On a hot, sunny afternoon in July 2009 at a restaurant in Anadarko, Oklahoma, my friend Milton Sovo, a Comanche rancher, introduced me to indigenous environmental philosophy. He said:
I've always been taught by my grandmother and grandfather and my dad that we as Native Americans are one with the land—it's Mother Earth and we have to take care of her so she'll take care of us. We only take what we need and give back what we can. As long as we deal fair with the environment and farming, what we do in Nature with that mind set, we feel like we can evolve and not hurt Mother Earth. We'll leave her for our children. That's the way I look at everything I do. I want to leave it better than what I found it.
This indigenous philosophy, that humans are intricately linked with the world around them, means that Native Americans value close observation of nature for clues about day-to-day weather changes and seasonal climate—a practice that informs their work as farmers, ranchers, and gardeners.
RANDY PEPPLER is a researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies at the University of Oklahoma–Norman.