What happened at the 22nd Annual Indigenous Sustainability Design Course?

 Article written by Nicole Francis 
Picture credits: Clayton Brascoupe 

This years Indigenous Sustainable Communities Design Course (ISCDC 2018) was held in Northern New Mexico at the Camino De Paz School-Farm from July 22nd through August 3rd. It was attended by 30 students, and featured a majority of Indigenous women instructors for the two weeks of intensive hands on training.

As in previous years, the course follows the Indigenous permaculture approach which is defined as, “the harmonious integration of landscape and people.” Each teaching and skill share, every meal prepared together, each story told, and every field trip taken during the course connects the students to the holistic indigenous approach that is based in the beautiful and complex traditional knowledge of our elders and ancestors. As the course participants attended each day they spent their evening hours working in teams to incorporate these holistic concepts into projects to be presented during the final days of the course.

The first day of the course set the tone for the weeks to follow. The group of students gathered in a circle for introductions, to share their views, and express their emotions as they embarked on the next 13 days together. Coming together in this circle is also an exercise in demonstrating the broader teachings the design course is based upon. A ball of string is thrown from student to student around the circle, leaving a line of string connecting the next person to the last, as each person takes their turn to speak. Every student comes from a different territory, a different center of their universe, a different creation story, a different Nation and environment with a different life experience to share with one another. As the last person receives the ball of string the group now sees the result of the “string exercise.” Not only are they connected to the person that threw them the ball of string, but each connection in the circle has come together to create a web of interconnectedness. Clayton Brascoupe, the organizer and founder of the ISCDC remarks after this exercise, “The string illustrates how we’re all connected and interconnected. People, plants, animals, water, wind, stone, stars and more,” these are the threads in the web. He continues, “What we do will affect all, both positive or negative. Diversity is our strength, relationships are our foundation. Everyone is part of our community, everyone is important, everyone has responsibility, just as you see in nature.” It is with this teaching, the knowledge of the web of life, that the course unfolds.

Day two of the course was spent visiting ancestral and contemporary sites of “Indigenous permaculture.” Observations were made by the students at Tsankawi, an ancient Pueblo site where the people used natural designs to thrive and live in cooperation with the water, plants, animals, weather, the earth and landscape. Next, the students visited “Healing Oasis.” The urban garden incorporates water harvesting as well as food and medicinal plantings to create an intentional space in a public urban setting to restore the degraded landscape.

Healthy soil was the focus of the third day of instruction. Methods to grow and restore soils, including the hands on creation of earth worm composting boxes. In the afternoon the participants learned to make seed balls, an effective way to revegetate an area with native plants. Making traditional planting sticks was also part of an afternoon skill share. The planting sticks made their way into the fourth day of instruction as Clayton gave a demonstration with them to make round planting beds. Hands on work by the students included double dug and waffle style gardens with integrated drip systems. Day 5 began with a classroom discussion on types of gardening including ancient rock mulch, three sisters and bio-intensive gardens. Later that day, Los Rios Rafting company hosted an exciting afternoon on the Rio Grande River.

Red Willow Farm from Taos Pueblo, hosted the field trip and instruction on day 6. Community involvement and commitment, from the youth to elders, were key themes spoken about by Sheryl from Red Willow. Tribal member community involvement begins with putting seeds and intentions in the ground and culminates in a weekly farmers market that provides fresh produce, traditional foods for elders and other community members at affordable prices, and healing through community involvement. The farm must consider more than just the human needs for food, but also respecting the water and seasons in a dry, high altitude climate where drought and insects can affect crops. Observation of our natural surroundings and the hard work and commitment of community are part of the holistic ways we work in partnership with our surroundings instead of against them.

Food is our medicine! Having access to clean, non-gmo, ancestral foods is part of reclaiming and asserting ourselves as Indigenous people. Corn is the ancestral food for many Indigenous Nations. The traditions surrounding corn people are as varied as the communities they come from. The 7th day of the Design Course gave the students the opportunity to process corn into different forms of delicious, nutritious food. Blue corn was processed into Blue corn masa and the day was spent making and cooking blue corn tamales and tortillas. Food traditions are transmitters of medicine, health, language and culture.

Around half of the world’s farmers are women and in developing countries 79 percent of the economically active women are farmers (worldhunger.org). Day 8 instruction of the design course covered Indigenous Women in Agriculture. This was allowed by Norma and Hutch Naranjo (The Feasting Place) of the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo by opening their home and horno (earthen oven) for hands-on food preparation, and sharing their experience with traditional farming and food preparation from their Pueblo. The day finished with Nicolle Gonzalez, a certified nurse-midwife and founder of Changing Woman Initiative. The inspiring and thought provoking conversation included how Indigenous midwifery supports nation building and sovereignty, as well as discussing the history of midwifery in Indigenous communities and what is happening now.

Lilian Hill, Director at Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture Institute, started the 9th day off with sharing her expertise as an Earth builder. Earth building uses local materials, is less toxic, has a smaller carbon footprint with transportation, and will cool and heat structures efficiently. Students finished out the day and gave Earth building a try by repairing an horno (earthen oven) in the Santa Clara Pueblo.

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Day 10 was spent in discussion with Rowen White, Indigenous seed steward and director at Sierra Seed Cooperative as well as Coordinator for the Indigenous SeedKeepers Network, a program of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance. The day was  followed by a visit to the seed bank and farm at the Tesuque Pueblo with Emigdio Ballon. Clayton Brascoupe’s comments from that day, “How do we insure we have a healthy culturally appropriate diet, seeds that have the ability to thrive in a rapidly changing climate? Our ancestors provided these for our well being. We need to grow and protect our plant food relatives.” Rowen shared her seeds with the students and her experience as an Indigenous seed steward. “What are seeds?” she asks. Seeds are life, seeds are a blue print, seeds are our relatives, seeds are our ancestors seeds are resilient, seeds are alive….

There was a final field trip, on day 11, to the Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute, Santa Clara Pueblo. Roxanne Swentzell, founder, took the group on a tour of her home and desert oasis that was once only a parking lot and hard packed earth. Through her hard work and observation of the site, she created micro climates for plants to grow and thrive creating space for the land to heal. Everything has a use and even the grasshoppers are seen as a food source. By stacking functions the participants saved the garden by harvesting the grasshoppers and used the grasshoppers to contribute to a traditional and sovereign food experience. High protein grasshopper flour!

Back at La Paz farm for the afternoon session, Nicole Francis, Indigenous herbalist, forager and grassroot community educator, taught an herbal processing class. After a short lecture on the different herbal processing methods and ethics regarding collection, the students went to the kitchen and worked on cutting medicines for a fire cider. The final hour they made a healing salve from local medicinal plants.

As the course was coming to a close the 12th day was spent on the sustainable design course projects and their team presentations. After the presentations the students received their certifications of course completion. Thank you Clayton Brascoupe for encouraging and inspiring the graduates of the last 22 years of the Design Course!!

For more information please contact tnafa_org@yahoo.com 

Contact:
Clayton Brascoupe 
Director, Traditional Native American Farmers Association 
tnafa_org@yahoo.com 

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Southwest Intertribal Food Summit, October 26-27 in Taos, New Mexico

REGISTER HERE!

Enjoy Historical Presentations including: The Pueblo Revolt, The Return of Blue Lake, ‘Tribal Leaders and La Donna Harris’, Indigenous Foods, Hands-on Workshops, Culinary Teachings with Native Chefs and a Traditional Pueblo Feast in the Pueblo Village.

The Southwest Food Summit in Taos, New Mexico is sponsored by the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance, Traditional Native American Farmer’s Association, Taos Pueblo, Red Willow Farms and TCEDC’s Taos Food Center.

LODGING: We have blocked rooms for this Summit at:

The Don Fernando Hotel
Contact: Joshua Herrera; phone 505-919-9024 / email: Joshua.Herrera@Hilton.com

The Hampton Inn
You can book on Hilton.com or call them to book your room!
Group Code: TFC You can go to hilton.com type in the dates of arrival and Taos as location. *click advanced search* add special rate code* in the group code box type TFS click Go. Or you can call them directly at 575-737-5700

For more information Contact: nativefoodalliance@gmail.com

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August Update from the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network

ISKN has been working on organizing a number of gatherings and ways we can bring the message of our program and overall NAFSA voice into native communities.  As a part of our mission of our program, we continue to develop curriculum and tools that serve the larger native community to increase seed literacy and empower their seed sovereignty movements.

Rowen White traveled to Narragansett/Mashantucket Pequot community to offer a seed stewardship training over 2 days as a part of the Intertribal Food Sovereignty Summit.  There were dozens of participants in the seed track over the 2-day program, and we are grateful to make more connections in the Northeast area with tribal communities who are making a significant impact in their communities by creating access to healthy and culturally significant foods.

There was also a vibrant seed swap, where rare heirloom varieties from the northeast region were shared and traded as a part of an overall indigenous barter fair during the event! Nothing gets farmers and gardeners more excited than seeds!

If you are interested in joining the ISKN email list to be included on the monthly calls, please follow this link to this form ( use this link: https://goo.gl/forms/xkhGaUZJEncG678h1

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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