Curtis brothers save native grasses

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CLOVIS, N.M. - Brothers Blake and Tye Curtis, Cherokee, have taken the
small grass seed company started by their father in 1956 and turned it into
a multi-million dollar organization. They co-own Curtis & Curtis Inc. which
now deals exclusively in native grasses. The Western United States is their
main territory.

"In your younger years, I don't think you have a great appreciation of your
Indian heritage," said younger brother Tye. "As I've gotten older and taken
the time to go back to Cherokee, N.C., I can see what sacrifices were made
by our people - even by our grandparents - for us. You look at the Trail of
Tears, and realize our connectedness goes beyond the Cherokee people."

Descended from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation in North Carolina,
the Curtis family has a special love of New Mexico that they've called home
all their lives.

"We love the Navajo, Hopi, Mohave and Pueblo tribes who live around us
here. We cherish their artwork and cultures," said Tye. "As we travel the
Four Corners area, it's such a beautiful environment. To see the hub of all
those generations is something that becomes dear to your heart as you grow
and nurture the land. At Curtis & Curtis, we truly get to give back and
serve the land in our business."

According to Blake, the brothers have never used their Cherokee heritage to
claim competitive advantage over others. "Knowing our ancestors were able
to survive off the land gives us strength to survive in the new world,"
said Blake. "Curtis & Curtis is one of about seven or eight companies in
the U.S. that deal with the range of native products that we do and provide
... specialty items to such a diverse client base - individuals,
corporations, government agencies, etc. One big thing that sets us apart is
that we are both pilots, and fly over greater areas, looking for native
grasses."

As a major supplier of seed used in land reclamation, re-vegetation and
conservation programs, Curtis & Curtis hunts and harvest wildflower and
native grass seed.

"There's no way we can produce these seed as inexpensively as Mother Nature
can," said Blake.

Because wild plants tend to be heartier than cultivated native plants,
there is a significant movement to use native products collected in the
wild for planting at disturbed sites. The native plants and wild seeds
hunted and harvested by Curtis & Curtis are used to restore natural cover
to gaping wounds in the earth left by strip mining, highway and pipeline
reconstruction, drilling activity, windmill installations and a multitude
of other assaults.

"We're privileged," said Blake. "We get to go out and take Mother Nature's
natural product and use that to restore the land. There are very few of the
native seed suppliers left."

While the company was started by their father, J.V. "Rip" Curtis, the
brothers' mother, Thelma Curtis, shared her knowledge and love of plants
with her three children, including daughter Tamara.

"Mother has a deep, deep heart," said Tye. "She's always been a plant
person, has always shared that with me. That was passed down from her
mother, father and grandparents. I can remember mom telling me about her
grandmother sending her out to get herbs from the forest. Our
great-grandmother described to our mother in intricate detail what types of
plants she was looking for. She would tell her where they grew, what the
leaves looked like, what they were used for, etc. I carry that love of
plants in my everyday life, and it is a direct result of my heritage."

Curtis & Curtis past customers have included Wilford Brimley, Ted Turner,
Jane Fonda and others who are concerned about environment and land they've
purchased and, as Blake put it, are "good stewards of the land."

"Our business takes us across every walk of life - we really enjoy that."