The Medicine Wheel Garden outside of the Liberal Arts Building has a rich and inspiring history. Not only is this garden a symbol of Native American culture, it is a natural resource that reaches beyond campus. USM professor Tammy Greer wrote the grant for the garden that was planted in the summer of 2005. This year marks its 10-year anniversary.
Greer had a vision for the Medicine Wheel Garden from the beginning. She wanted the garden to be filled with native plants so that elders from local tribes could pass down their plant knowledge to the native youth. However, the garden began with a wide variety of plants.
“Native plants can’t be bought from Home Depot and in a lot of different places they have died out,” Greer said.
However, she did not give up on her vision. Instead, she created a board with a picture of the Medicine Wheel Garden. She carried the board with her on visits to local Native American tribes, inviting anyone with an interest in it to donate plants. It was four years later at the 2009 Choctaw Indian Fair that an elderly couple took a special interest in the garden.
In October 2009, the couple came to Southern Miss with a trailer of over 500 native plants dug up from the Holly Springs National Forest. A few months later, the couple came down with another 500 plants from the DeSoto National Forest. Six to eight months after the initial truckload the garden was filled with native plants, and non-native plants began to be removed.
“When (Native Americans) come here, they pray at the garden because they know it is significant,” Greer said.
The garden is now a source of culture and tradition that has a tremendous reach outside of campus, and even out of the state. Greer gathers baskets of seeds every year to distribute to the tribes.
“It’s like a natural forest right here on campus,” Greer said. “Nobody else has something like that.”
The Medicine Wheel Garden is dependent on the student body just as much as the faculty. Students are welcome to gather seeds from the garden, tend to it or help in any way they can.
“She deserves to be pampered because she really gives so much to so many places,” Greer said of the garden. “Just step one foot in. Pick up trash. Take care of it.” She also asks that students be respectful and not trample the plants when harvesting seeds.
Greer tends to the garden with the help of her students seeking extra credit and the Golden Eagles Intertribal Society. She invites the student body to help tend the garden and also join the Golden Eagle Intertribal Society.
“You don’t have to be a Native American to join,” she said. “We need all hands on deck.”
The student organization is open to all students who are interested in culture or gardening.