Wild Indigo Nature Explorations is a community engagement program that seeks to build lasting relationships between urban communities of color and their local natural areas. The goal is to demonstrate the connection between healthy natural habitats and healthy urban communities via activities that familiarize adults and children with the nature and wildlife that share the spaces where they live, work, and play.
Wild Indigo fellows, together with local partners and community members, create nature-based activities tailored for the specific communities that address concerns around accessibility, safety, and wellness while also leading to conservation impacts for the unique habitats and birds that depend on them. By building programs in collaboration with community, Wild Indigo helps to address the barriers that make natural spaces inaccessible to communities of color and begins to dismantle perceptions that nature is not for them.
The heart of the program are our Wild Indigo Engagement Fellows, who bring together community partners and participants to lead the nature exploration activities. Fellows are trained in ecological restoration as well as community engagement principles in order to lead community members on guided bird and nature walks, field trips, seed collection and planting workdays, and other outdoor activities in local parks, preserves and wildlife refuges.
Created in 2013, Wild Indigo was developed by Audubon Great Lakes and collaborative partners Eden Place Nature Center, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, to connect African-American and Latino families on the South Side of Chicago to local nature. The program name honors the early days of the collaboration, when during the initial spring visits to Cook County Forest Preserves, the first group of engagement fellows came across wild indigo plants (baptisia australis) everywhere they went. The purple wild flower became a unifying feature of their experience, so when time came to name the program the project partners chose Wild Indigo Nature Explorations. The name references habitat that supports birds, but also a plant that is present in cultural traditions from various parts of the world.
In the last six years, the program has engaged over 6,500 individuals and 35 community groups in Chicago, IL, Lake County, IL and Detroit, MI. We have collected pounds of prairie seed, cut back acres of invasive European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), and enjoyed bridging community relationships to nature that is native to our region such as ospreys, bur oaks, woodpeckers, prickly pear cactus, and our namesake, the wild indigo flower.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 312-453-0230 x 2005 for information about coming field trips, indoor programs, or partnering with us.
“At home I used to play, and the birds always used to whistle with me. I would stop what I was working on and play with the birds.” -Eric Dolphy