This researcher is trying to restore peach trees to tribal lands in the Southwest

Published: Tuesday, May 10, 2022 - 12:42pm
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Peaches are often seen as a summer delicacy, and some Phoenix-area residents are getting ready to pick them off trees in their yards. But for Reagan Wytsalucy, this fruit has a much deeper meaning.

Wytsalucy works with Utah State University Extension and has been trying to bring back the kinds of peaches that used to be grown on tribal lands across the Southwest.

She says there’s a record of peaches growing in this part of the country dating to at least 1630, and that at one point on Navajo land in Canyon de Chelly, there were more than 4,500 fruit trees at a time.

But prior to the Long Walk in the 1860s when the Navajo were forcibly removed from their land, the U.S. military cut the trees down and burned them. Then, after four years, the U.S. government and Navajos signed a treaty allowing them to come back to their homelands, where they replanted the peach trees. 

The Show spoke with Wytsalucy and asked how she got into the kind of work she’s doing, because it’s not just an academic exercise for her — it’s personal.

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