Seed Rematriation; The seeds are coming home to us

The seeds are coming home to us.  

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Across Turtle Island, there is a growing intergenerational movement of indigenous people proud to carry the message of the grand rematriation of seeds and foods back into our indigenous communities.  Some having been missing from our communities for centuries; carried on long journeys in smokey buckskin pouches, upon the necks of peoples who were forced to relocate from the land of their births, their ancestral grounds.  Generations later, these seeds are now coming back home; from the vaults of public institutions, seed banks, universities, seedkeeper collections and some laying upon dusty pantry shelves of foresighted elders, seeds patiently sleeping and dreaming. Seeds waiting for loving hands to patiently place them into welcoming soil once more so that they can continue to fulfill their original agreement to help feed the people.

 

The Indigenous Seedkeepers network is proud to be one of many who are assisting in this healing pathway of bringing our traditional seeds home from that many places they are waiting for us, outside our communities.  

 

There is a healing and hopeful trend that is emerging at the cutting edge of the indigenous food/seed sovereignty movement and the social justice movement, which is in the Rematriation of Seeds. We are all familiar with the journey for the repatriation of cultural property within indigenous communities.  Within native communities, we are very familiar with the word Repatriation, which is the return of treasures, ancestral remains and sacred objects of cultural heritage to their communities of origin and their descendants. The displaced cultural property items are physical artifacts that were taken from this place and people of origin usually in an act of theft, whether in the context of imperialism, colonialism or war.  The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (Public Law 101-601; 25 U.S.C. 3001-3013) describes the rights of Native American lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations with respect to the treatment, repatriation, and disposition of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony, referred to collectively in the statute as cultural items, with which they can show a relationship of lineal descent or cultural affiliation.

 

In the indigenous seed sovereignty movement, we have begun to use the word “Rematriation” as it relates to bringing these seeds home again.  In many communities, including my own Mohawk tradition, the responsibility of caring for the seeds over the generations is ultimately within the women’s realm.  Both men and women farm and plant seeds, but their care and stewardship are part of the women’s bundle of responsibility. So the word “rematriation” reflects the restoration of the feminine seeds back into the communities of origin. The Indigenous concept of Rematriation refers to reclaiming of ancestral remains, spirituality, culture, knowledge and resources, instead of the more Patriarchally associated Repatriation. It simply means back to Mother Earth, a return to our origins, to life and co-creation, rather than Patriarchal destruction and colonization, a reclamation of germination, of the life-giving force of the Divine Female.

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There is powerful healing work of reconciliation when we work cross-culturally to bring these seeds home to their communities of origin.  We are working within the Indigenous SeedKeepers Network to assist communities who are working towards Rematriation of their precious seed relatives.  We are working cross-culturally with many stakeholders, including native farmers and gardeners and representatives from tribal communities, institutions, and organizations who have such seed collections, and also other people who can help facilitate and lay out the needed framework to assist in these seeds finding their way home. We are working towards establishing the protocols and guidelines in this complex and healing work of seed reconciliation.  There are deeply embedded cultural and spiritual aspects of these work, as well as legal and political aspects that directly address seed justice.

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This past year, ISKN has initiated a relationship with one of the largest public access heritage seed banks in the world, Seed Savers Exchange (SSE).   Working cooperatively with SSE, we identified that there are hundreds ( potentially thousands) of varieties within their seed vault collection, that have origins within tribal communities within North America.  Over the winter of 2018, we came into an agreement between NAFSA and SSE to collaborate on a Seed Rematriation project, where we would sponsor the rematriation process of initially 25 native varieties of corn, beans and squash back to tribal communities.  As a part of this process, we are working with a focus group of native farmers and seedkeepers, as well as other stakeholders from similar seed rematriation projects happening with regional seedbanks, museums and universities, to develop a shared action framework and best practices guideline document for other communities wishing to engage in the Seed Rematriation process.  

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We gathered for 2 days at the Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm in Decorah Iowa on July 23rd and 24th, 2018.  18 participants from communities based in the Northeast and Upper Midwest convened to discuss protocols and guidelines for Seed Rematriation, as well as visited the 25 seed crop varieties in the field that are being regenerated for rematriation this fall.  It was a very heartfelt gathering, where we shared many ideas and thoughts and reflections on this process of Seed Rematriation. Seed Rematriation is deep and multi-layered, encompassing spiritual, emotional, practical, scientific, and legal and political realms.  As we carry these sacred bundles of our seed relatives home to their mother communities, we re-awaken time-honored relationships once again. When we come together to cultivate the Earth and sing our seed songs and prayers on behalf of future generations, we embody the great generosity and benevolence of our own beloved Mother Earth.

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Working collaboratively with Seed Savers Exchange has been very inspirational, and mutually beneficial.  As a non-native organization, they have had incredible respect and willingness to allow native leadership in this process, and are doing internal work on educating staff as well as adopting this process to inform future community engagement. They are setting a wonderful precedent for other seedbanks and non-profit organizations to work respectfully and collaboratively with native communities in the process of reclamation of traditional seeds.  It has been a very insightful process for all involved. Seed Savers Exchange has been willing to share about their comprehensive seed banking methods with seedkeepers from native communities who wish to establish seed banks/libraries from their own communities, as well as share protocols and methods for seed history and cultural memory documentation, as well as seed bank database and critical methods for seed storage. ISKN and our circle of seedkeepers have helped inform this organization on how we view these seeds as part of our cosmology, and offer a wider perspective outside the western scientific view of seeds, as well as inform them of how to move forward in culturally appropriate ways to honor not only the seeds but the communities of origin as well.  There has been a cultivation of mutual respect and benefit, as well as building trust to ensure that our beloved and sacred traditional seeds are returned to our communities with honor and dignity.

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This year we are rematriating seeds back to communities of the following tribes: Mohawk, Seneca and other Haudenosaunee, Odawa, Ojibwe, Taos Pueblo, Cherokee, Arikara, Mandan, Hidatsa, Stockbridge Munsee, Pawnee, Kickapoo, and Narragansett.  

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We are seeking continuing support and funding to continue this collaborative project into future seasons, and assist other groups and communities in this work.  ISKN is part of an advisory group for seed rematriations that are happening with the University of Michigan, Minnesota Museum of Science, UW- Madison, and potentially the Field Museum.

 

ISKN will be hosting Seed Rematriation listening sessions as a part of this focus group and development of this working document at two upcoming events, both sponsored by NAFSA.  First, we will be gathering at the Intertribal Food Sovereignty Summit on August 21-24, 2018; hosted by both the Narragansett and Mashantucket tribes. You can learn more and register for this event by following this link: Intertribal Food Sovereignty Summit  

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We will also be hosting another Seed Rematriation listening session, as well as bringing a sacred bundle of seeds home to the Taos Pueblo at the Southwest Food Summit, hosted at Taos Pueblo on October 26 and 27th, 2018.  You can learn more at the NAFSA website as the event planning evolves.

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For those of you who may be interested in joining the Indigenous Seedkeepers monthly working group calls, follow this form to be placed on our email list.  

 

Part of this rematration path, of finding our seed relatives and carrying them home, is reawakening the intertwined harmonies of seedsongs of our ancestors, ourselves and those yet to come. Whatever it takes, we must continue to carry our ancestors greatness into tomorrow, and our seeds are one of their precious gifts for us in this day.  Inside those seeds, Our ancestors prayers are still protecting us. Our voices come together with theirs as we make the needed prayers for those yet to come. As we welcome the seeds home, we step into each day in ways that make our ancestors proud, may those songs of resilience that course through our blood and bones give us the strength to do what needs to be done to feed the children. Today we worked together to greet acknowledge the path ahead to uphold our responsibilities to our ancestors, our children and all our relations. I am thankful to have met so many amazing indigenous farmers and gardeners who are joining this seed revolution and bringing our seeds home.  Pawnee seedkeepers bringing home seeds to ancestral soil, working hand in hand with settler descendants in a grand act of reconciliation to keep the seeds alive; Ponca farmers planting red corn in ancestral fields for the first time in 167 years since relocation; Mohawk farmers working in collaboration with farmers of many settler descendants to rematriate traditional seeds to ancestral farming grounds; heirloom beans and corn emerging from museums and seed bank vaults to the loving and calloused hands of native peoples, who see these seeds and foods as treasured relatives.

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Knowing that our hearts beat in promise to carry this bundle of seed gifts to share with the world, these seeds help us to hydrate the stories that make up the constellation of who we are. May we continue to be there for these seeds, as we turn our prayers into actions for this new day.  Each one of us reading this has the ancient and cellular memory of being a seedkeeper; the communities we descend are resilient and tenacious survivors. Just like our seeds, we have overcome so much adversity.

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The Seeds are coming home to us.  They are helping us to heal.

 

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Indigenous Seedkeepers Network Update; Growing the Seeds that Nourish the Food Sovereignty Movement

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Indigenous Seedkeepers Network was proud to sponsor a comprehensive seed track as a part of the Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit, hosted at the Meskwaki Settlement in Iowa.  Over five days, several hundred participants, presenters, vendors and visitors spent time learning about traditional foods, understanding plants, food issues, uses for medicine, mentoring with Indigenous chefs, consulting with gardeners and others involved in the greater Native Food Sovereignty movement.  Rowen White and Clayton Brascoupe taught 4 seed sovereignty sessions;

 

1) Introduction to Seed Saving, where we shared about the fundamentals of seedkeeping and seed stewardship as a part of a diverse farm or garden.

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2) Community Seed Banking  and Seed Storage, where we shared about how to begin a community seed initiative and how to store seeds long-term for sustained food security.  We were inspired to host renowned indigenous potter Natasha Smoke to assist us in the making of traditional clay seed pots.

3) Seed Rematriation and Ancestral Seeds, where we shared stories from the seed rematriation movement ( more about that in this article below)

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4) Indigenous Seed Sovereignty Assessment Toolkit Roundtable Listening Session, where a diverse circle of tribal community members joined us as we talked about cultivating the vision for creating vibrant seed sovereignty initiatives within our tribal communities.  Seeds are a vibrant and vital foundation for food sovereignty, and are the basis for a sustainable, healthy agriculture. We understand that seeds are our precious collective inheritance and it is our responsibility to care for the seeds as part of our responsibility to feed and nourish ourselves and future generations. NAFSA’s Indigenous SeedKeeper Network is seeking assistance to help strengthen traditional seed systems by developing a Seed Sovereignty Assessment publication and toolkit. This resource will assist Native communities in their efforts to reclaim their local and traditional seed systems. This resource will help demystify the diverse and dynamic process of creating a vibrant regional and cultural relevant community seed projects, and help identify the steps needed to create resilient seed stewardship mentorship networks. This resource will offer tools and a framework for Native communities to become more seed and food secure through asset mapping and facilitated strategic project mapping, using several tribal community case studies.  This workshop will be sharing success stories, and we will host a listening session and resource-sharing to help communities to continue to take action to ensure seed security is a part of their food sovereignty initiatives.

 

We are excited to offer another comprehensive Seed Sovereignty Learning track as a part of the Intertribal Food Sovereignty Summit, being hosted at Narragansett Community in August 2018.  Please click this link to learn more and register.

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Seed Rematriation;

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Across Turtle Island, there is a growing intergenerational movement of  indigenous people proud to carry the message of the grand rematriation of seeds and foods back into our indigenous communities.  Some had been missing from our communities for centuries; carried on long journeys in smokey buckskin pouches, upon the necks of peoples who were forced to relocate from the land of their births, their ancestral grounds.  Generations later, these seeds are now coming back home; from the vaults of public institutions, seed banks, universities, seedkeeper collections and some laying upon dusty pantry shelves of foresighted elders, seeds patiently sleeping and dreaming. Seeds waiting for loving hands to patiently place them into welcoming soil once more so that they can continue to fulfill their original agreement to help feed the people. ISKN is excited to be a part of a growing movement for the Rematriation of Seeds back to tribal communities. We are partnering with many tribal communities and organizations and institutions to assist these seeds in finding their way home again.  

This season, ISKN is working closely with Seed Savers Exchange to identify traditional indigenous varieties that are held within their extensive seed bank, and regenerate them out on Seed Saver’s Exchange’s Heritage Farm with the expressed purpose of redistributing them back in a respectful way to the tribal communities of origin. We are hosting a small convening in late July to bring together tribal community members and stakeholders from the many organizations and institutions to begin the healing process to develop a shared framework of action to help guide other communities who wish to engage in seed rematriation to bring their beloved seed relatives home.
If you wish to be a part of the growing ISKN community, please visit our Facebook page or email rowen@sierraseeds.org to join our mailing list for monthly calls and webinars.  

New Indigenous Storytelling Video Series forthcoming!

Over the past 20 years, a dynamic, grassroots movement to assert food sovereignty has grown throughout Native North America. In communities from arctic Alaska to the desert Southwest, Indigenous peoples have been revitalizing their foodways utilizing land, water and elder wisdom to improve health, grow our own food, nurture the Earth and provide economic benefit to tribal members.

The Indigenous Food Sovereignty Storytelling Project draws upon the collective experience and wisdom of these community efforts to build tribal food sovereignty. It will produce and disseminate a series of short documentary films exploring ten interrelated themes that root and nurture Native food sovereignty. It will include accompanying action guides and case studies for each theme, providing tools to help nurture community-based efforts to develop resilient and dynamic tribal foodways and provide essential resources for Native communities, tribal policymakers, funders, and others working to build healthy, culturally dynamic, and sustainable Indigenous communities.

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Building upon the footage gathered at NAFSA convenings in the last three years, NAFSA is thrilled to announce a new partnership with The Cultural Conservancyto produce a short video that shares stories of the Native American grassroots food sovereignty movement.

We are pleased to welcome Mateo Hinojosa, from The Cultural Conservancy, as the project videographer for an Indigenous Seedkeepers video. Mateo will film at the Great Lakes Summit highlighting the work of the many Seedkeepers involved in the seed sovereignty movement with the Indigenous Seedkeeper Network.    

Indigenous Seedkeeping Workshops at the Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit

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All across Turtle Island we are seeing a great resurgence of indigenous tribes building healthy and resilient food systems as a cornerstone to cultural and ecological renewal programs, as well as a means to reclaim indigenous economies and true economic and political sovereignty. NAFSA’s Indigenous Seed Keepers Network is helping leverage resources for indigenous communities cultivating culturally appropriate solutions to restoring seed stewardship of traditional foods.  In the age of the increasing industrialization of our food and the erosion of biodiversity within cultural contexts, the Indigenous Seed Keeper Network asks the questions that assists communities of diverse cultures and backgrounds; Can we envision the Seed Commons, and coordinate collaborative efforts to care and protect for our seeds that is in right relationship to a diverse understanding of cultural values and cosmology? How can we use the process of reclaiming our traditional seeds and food as a powerful means of cultural restoration? Integral in this seed movement is the cultural memories and stories, and how we regain a sense of who we are as a culture through our foods and seeds. 

We are excited to collaborate with the Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit, held this year at the Meskwaki Nation in Tama Iowa, to host a series of Indigenous Seedkeeping Workshops. We are thankful to New Field Foundation’s “Seeds, Soil, and Culture” grant which has made this a possibility.   Join us as we talk about the creative ways of re-integrating seed stewardship back into our local community food systems, and how we can deepen our understanding of the nourishing cycles of life.

There is still time to join us!   Follow this link to register, and join in the vibrant community that is revitalizing our connection to our Indigenous seeds and traditional foods!

Here is the descriptions of the four in-depth Seedkeeping workshops that ISKN will be leading as a part of the diverse gathering;

1) Intro to Seed Saving

Seed is a precious common heritage, and an essential component to the future sustainability of our food. Our ancestors have faithfully passed us this incredible gift of life over countless generations.  Join us for this hands-on workshop with Rowen White and Clayton Brascoupe, demonstrating the creative ways of re-integrating seed stewardship back into our local community food systems, and how we can deepen our understanding of the nourishing cycles of life.  We will also be doing hands on seed cleaning, and there will be a seed giveaway during this time as well.

 

2) Community Seed Banking

Seed is a precious common heritage, and an essential component to the future sustainability of our food. Our ancestors have faithfully passed us this incredible gift of life over countless generations. Seeds are living beings that require a community to steward them within a cultural context. Come join in a vibrant discussion and teaching about proper ways to store and save indigenous seeds, and also how to create community seed bank initiatives that help create access to traditional and heritage seeds within our communities. We will explore topics such as how to form a seed library or seed bank, cultivating regenerative economic projects to support our seed sovereignty efforts, and how to create vibrant mentorship networks within our communities to keep the seeds healthy and vibrant for generations to come.

3) Seed Rematriation and Ancestral Seeds

Across Turtle Island, there is a growing intergenerational movement of  indigenous people proud to carry the message of the grand rematriation of seeds and foods back into our indigenous communities.  Over the last few centuries of the disruption of our indigenous food systems, many of our traditional varieties have left our communities, only to be stewarded by non-native farmers or seedkeepers. In addition, many of these traditional seeds have been stewarded or stored within public or private collections, institutions and organizations such as public seed banks, universities, museums and seed companies.  As a part of the indigenous seed sovereignty movement, we are recognizing the need for these seeds to be back in living context. In an era of displacement and acculturation, some of these varieties were completely lost in their communities of origin, and we are now locating derivatives of these seeds in such public and private collections. Some were carried on long journeys in smoky buckskin pouches, upon the necks of peoples who were forced to relocate from the land of their births, their ancestral grounds.  Some of these seeds remained in the hands of our people, and some of the seeds left, sometimes by force or theft, and also by trade or gift. Seeds move and migrate, just like people do. Generations later, these seeds are now coming back home; from the vaults of public institutions, seed banks, universities, seedkeeper collections and some laying upon dusty pantry shelves of foresighted elders, seeds patiently sleeping and dreaming. Join us as we talk about several Seed Rematriation projects happening with several tribal communities across Turtle Island, and help develop the discussion around generating guidelines and protocols for this sacred work as we bring our seeds home.  

 

4) Indigenous Seed Sovereignty Assessment Toolkit Roundtable Listening Session.

Come join us as we talk about cultivating the vision for creating vibrant seed sovereignty initiatives within our tribal communities.  Seeds are a vibrant and vital foundation for food sovereignty, and are the basis for a sustainable, healthy agriculture. We understand that seeds are our precious collective inheritance and it is our responsibility to care for the seeds as part of our responsibility to feed and nourish ourselves and future generations.

NAFSA’s Indigenous SeedKeeper Network is seeking assistance to help strengthen traditional seed systems by developing a Seed Sovereignty Assessment publication and toolkit. This resource will assist Native communities in their efforts to reclaim their local and traditional seed systems. This resource will help demystify the diverse and dynamic process of creating a vibrant regional and cultural relevant community seed projects, and help identify the steps needed to create resilient seed stewardship mentorship networks. This resource will offer tools and a framework for Native communities to become more seed and food secure through asset mapping and facilitated strategic project mapping, using several tribal community case studies.  This workshop will be sharing success stories, and we will host a listening session and resource-sharing to help communities to continue to take action to ensure seed security is a part of their food sovereignty initiatives.

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NAFSA Culinary Mentorship Application

The Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance (NAFSA) is requesting applications for our Food & Culinary Mentorship Program’s first phase launching Spring 2018. Applications are due at 5:00pm pacific time on Friday, April 13, 2018.

This initial phase is seeking food & culinary mentee applicants who will receive travel support and a $300 honorarium to participate in the 2018 Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit from May 9-13 at the Meskwaki Nation in Tama, Iowa where mentees will be able to connect and work with experienced Native chefs including Sean Sherman, Loretta Barrett Oden, Claudia Serrato, Marlene Aguilar, Ben Jacobs, Brian Yazzie, and many more top and rising talents. This event is also featuring many Meskwaki and other community chefs, as well as seed keepers, traditional artists, and others actively engaged in the Indigenous foods movement.

Successful applicants will also be invited to participate in monthly mentorship online meetings and will receive $500 in seed money to host an event or program in your home community. Since this is the first phase of NAFSA’s Mentorship Program, we do anticipate additional future opportunities and welcome input on the program’s growth and evolution.

APPLY HERE!