River of grass
1st March, 2006
A tale of Indians and airboats, giant alligators and one of the world’s greatest ecosystems hanging in the balance.
He waits on the dock, wearing jeans, an enormous buckle on his belt, an embroidered waistcoat and a necktie. Buffalo Tiger, one of the last chiefs on the East Coast of the United States, greets me with a nod. His face is speckled by years of exposure to the sun and his thinning silver hair flutters in the breeze.
Buffalo Tiger has led his people for half a century and has defied the US government to win back a small section of swampland in the heart of Florida’s mighty Everglades National Park. I feel I should stoop in recognition of his status or offer that Disney gesture ‘How’ with my right hand.
Instead, I stand with him on the edge of a flimsy timber dock that looks out over miles of golden sawgrass and sinuous channels of dark water. ‘I was born right over there,’ he points vaguely in the distance, waving his arm gently to include the entire two million acres of National Park. What appears to be a massive inland delta is actually a slow moving river up to 100 kilometres across that runs from Lake Okeechobee in the east, devours the southern tip of Florida and diffuses into the Gulf of Mexico.
Conservationists worldwide have recognised south Florida, and...
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