Take a Walk with Native Lands, Plants & Art

By Linda Wiggen Kraft,
Healthy Planet Green & Growing Editor

The treasures of Forest Park are often a surprise. A few weeks ago, my husband and I experienced both native plants growing on what was for thousands of years native land* and art created by Native Americans. We took a walk through the Savanna in Forest Park, a few blocks north of Skinker Blvd and Clayton Rd. It is officially called The Kennedy Woods Savanna because it is on the edge of Kennedy Woods. Savannas are edge of woods areas where sun shines brightly in some areas and shade is provided by the tall trees. The eight-acre Savanna is filled with blooming native flowers, grasses, birds and other wildlife. Restoration of this unique native plant eco system began in 1999 and continues to this day to recreate a special place that is like the approximately 30 million acres of Midwest Oak Savannas that flourished before settlers came, and of which none exists now.

At this time of year, the yellow flowers predominate with Black-Eyed-Susans leading the celebration. Purple Coneflower and Monarda bloom amongst the yellows. The tall prairie grasses dance along with the flowers. Bird song and bees fill the air. The bird song identification app Merlin listened to what birds were singing and identified Indigo Bunting, Red Tailed Hawk and House Wren.

The path through the savanna comes to a golf course clearing and the St. Louis Art Museum a short five-minute walk away. We were headed to the Action/Abstraction Redefined: Modern Native Art, 1940s–1970s** exhibit. It was a fitting walk to see Native American art and feel the beauty and power of the land that honors the long history of the native peoples that lived here. The care, love and knowledge of the people who took on and continue the restoration of the savanna is felt too as one walks this land.

The Native American art exhibit shared powerful art created by mid century artists from different tribes and traditions. There is a permanent gallery of Native American art also that shows bead work, decoration on clothing and personal items along with pottery. All this native art feels connected to the land in a deep way, unlike non-native art. The art pieces carry an ancient lineage of the land of Forest Park and the North American continent.

Walking on the land of Forest Park after the art museum experience left me wondering how to honor not just the native plants of the savanna, but the land that holds a memory of what was there for many millenia. My hope is that this savanna hears the native drums and chants of Native Americans during the nearby April Pow Wow at Washington University.*** My hope is that when native plants grow in our gardens, we will honor and feel the memory of the land and the lineage of all the life that has lived upon and been nurtured by this land for so long.

*The land of Forest Park was home to Osage Nation, Missouria, Illinois Confederacy and many other tribes.

**The exhibit Action/Abstraction Redefined: Modern Native Art, 1940s–1970s closes Sept 3rd.
There is also an exhibit of newly created Native American art at Craft Alliance, Convergence: Indigenous Exchange & Encounter. The exhibit ends October 28th.Craft Alliance isin the Maker District near Delmar & Kingshighway. More info at: www.CraftAlliance.org

*** The Buder Center for American Indian Studies at the Brown School at Washington University hosts a Pow Wow each April. All are welcome. Find out more about these Pow Wows at:


Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer of holistic and organic gardens. She is also an artist and creativity workshop leader.. Find out more, subscribe to her blog and Instagram at www.CreativityForTheSoul.com, Call her at 314 504-4266.