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.
The mission of the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network is to nourish and assist the growing Seed Sovereignty Movement across Turtle Island ( North America). As a national network, we leverage resources and cultivate solidarity and communication within the matrix of regional grass-roots tribal seed sovereignty projects. We accomplish this mission by providing educational resources, mentorship training, outreach and advocacy support on seed policy issues, and organizing national and regional events and convenings to connect many communities who are engaging in this vital work. We aim to create a collaborative framework and declaration for ethical seed stewardship and indigenous seed guidelines for tribal communities to guide them as they protect their seeds from patenting and bio-piracy. We support the creation of solutions oriented programs for adaptive resilient seed systems within tribal communities to enhance the creative capacity to continue to evolve as the face of our Mother Earth changes.
ISKN is a shade tree of support to the essential work of regional and tribal seed initiatives , as we offer a diverse array of resources aimed at nourishing and supporting a vibrant indigenous seed movement, as a compliment to the growing Food Sovereignty movement within Indian country. In honor of the grand lineage of Seedkeepers who have faithfully passed down seeds for our nourishment, we make restored commitment to care for these precious seeds for those yet to come.
One seed has the ability to multiply exponentially into hundreds and eventually thousands.
We are working with tribal communities in collaboration with other non-profit organizations to revitalize native food systems as well as the rich cultural knowledge and practices that go with traditional food ways.
We have organized and hosted numerous Indigenous Seed Keeper trainings, including a large Indigenous Seed Keeper Summit in May of 2014, where we had over 30 participants from many tribal communities all over the country, including Dakota, Lakota, Anishinaabe, Oneida, and Chippewa and Umatilla nations. The Seed Keepers trainings are focused on empowering and equipping indigenous leaders with the tools and knowledge on how to re-integrate seed stewardship back into their communities and create sustainable projects and programs that focus on tribal seed sovereignty. We offer facilitation and mentorship, but aim to craft the trainings so that they are highlighting the inherant leaders and mentors that already exist in these communities, and bring people together to engage in powerful dialogue about the restoration of traditional food and seedways.
In an indigenous ecology of education, we combine practical hands on skillbuilding with thoughtful conversations around policy, health and healing, cultural memory, and indigenous economies.
The resilience of indigenous communities in amazing, as we move to a place of renewal, restoration, and abundance with our health and culture. Re-establishing ancient relationships in our hearts and minds. There are so many positive implications of this Seed Keeper gathering in relation to agricultural development, cultural renewal, and collective health goals within the many tribal nations that were represented.
Through our mentorship and leadership trainings, we aim to see the number of confident seed stewards within tribal communities growing exponentially. Our project coordinator and several of our collaborating partners have been working within indigenous communities to identify places where we can strengthen the resources needs to support seed sovereignty efforts. Traditional and regionally adapted seeds are at the foundation of any truly durable and sustainable food sovereignty program. By nourishing and supporting the development and growth of Seed Sovereignty projects, this project will assist communities in increasing access to regionally adapted traditional seeds. This has impact on the success and sustainability of local Food Sovereignty projects, which will have great impacts on the overall health and sustainability of indigenous food systems. The result is increased Seed Security in tribal communities, which has a direct impact on sustained Food Sovereignty for Indigenous Peoples.
Many of these traditional, culturally appropriate food crop varieties are not commercially available. Developing resources that support in-situ stewardship of these varieties within their communities of origin is a fundamental aspect to ensure these foods remain accessible to Indigenous Peoples. These varieties are a fundamental aspect of success in a local food program, for they are adapted to bioregional climate conditions over many generations. Access to traditional seed varieties ensures abundant harvests in regions with marginal resources. Seed stewardship is a fundamental tool for communities who face the consequences of climate change, increasing the creative capacity of indigenous food systems to evolve as our Mother Earth changes.
Developing indigenous seed systems has direct impact on the health of local food economies. Our forthcoming training publication entitled “Seed Sovereignty Assessment Toolkit” includes guidelines and support in creating regenerative economic models that support seed stewardship initiatives. Well maintained seeds only increase in value, and are a rich form of sustainable agricultural wealth. A section of our publication outlines how Seed Sovereignty programs can be woven into value added food programs to enhance sustainable and ethical economic development within tribal communities, using real community case studies. In this publication, we will illuminate strategies on how to create democratic strategies for long term seed stewardship and maintenance, which increases seed security and tribal control over collective seed resources. In the age of biotechnology and appropriation of genetic resources, it is essential for tribal communities to retain control over their seeds.
We have seen a global movement ( with organizations like Navdanya and La Via Campesina) working towards creating a collaborative framework, uniting the efforts of local and regional communities to strengthen the overall movement and to leverage resources that are not immediately available for smaller community initiatives. It is a critical time for the Indigenous SeedKeepers network to emerge in such leadership in Turtle Island ( North America) to help communities steward, protect, share and sustain their precious seed resources. ISKN works with a focus group/advisory council of over a dozen seedkeepers from a wide range of tribal communities across Turtle Island. This council will be a part of the listening and feedback sessions, to offer support and insight into how we can continue to create outreach and educational program that is a direct representation of the native people we serve. This advisory council is comprised of all indigenous farmers and gardens and food justice leaders.
An additional aspect of our long term vision is to provide assistance, support and detailed protocol for communities who are rematriating sacred ancestral seeds from public institutions, such as universities, museums and public access seed banks. Many communities are embarking on the path to reclaim heritage seeds once lost to their own communities during the era of colonization and acculturation. A critical aspect of revitalizing seed systems is identifying places where ancestral seeds still exist, and help carry them home in ways that are in alignment with their cultural protocols.
In our mentorship and educational resources, we will illuminate strategies on how to how to create democratic strategies for long term seed stewardship and maintenance, which increases seed security and tribal control over collective seed resources. In the age of biotechnology and appropriation of genetic resources, it is essential for tribal communities to retain control over their seeds. The result is increased seed security in tribal communities, which has a direct impact on sustained food sovereignty for native peoples.
The foundation of our work is in outreach, education and community organizing. Like the parable “ give a man a fish and you can feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you can feed him for a lifetime,” we seek to teach and empower through peer-to-peer mentorship training, which we bring directly into the communities we work with. Cultivating a network of community members, we empower them in their leadership and seed stewardship skills to create and sustain community seed intiatives and project, many of which will have a regenerative economic impact on the local food system.
A central focus to our educational programming is intergenerational transmission and mentorship. Seed work is intergenerational, as sacred traditional seeds are passed down from one generation as a precious collective inheritance. We work with a full spectrum of participants from all age groups, and we have a committment to serving our youth in learning the vital skills of seed stewardship and to gain more seed literacy. Many of our curriculum resources are aimed to assist school garden and natural science programs, and we are developing capacity to implement seed stewardship internship programs, which will offer in depth and hands on training for aspiring young seed stewards within a circle of participating community seed initiatives and farms.
In addition, at our SeedKeeper trainings and Intertribal Seed Summit, we have a youth component and a youth track of learning, which engages young people to learn, and also empowers previous mentees to serve in a teaching and leadership position. We have presence and programs we offer with the IAC Youth in Agriculture Leadership Summits, to inspire the next generation of seed stewards.
Long term outcomes are:
- Biennial Intertribal Indigenous Seed Summits
- A robust website with a virtual library of downloadable Seed
- Stewardship Resources and templates
- Seed Sovereignty Assessment Booklet and Survey/ Toolkit
- Policy, Advocacy and Legal support for Indigenous Seed Protection initiatives
- Curriculum Development for Seed Mentorship Programs
(intergenerational, with a youth component)
- Mentorship ( Train the Teachers) Trainings
- Flow Funding: Small Regranting for Tribal Communities Seed Sovereignty Initiatives
- Membership directory and Yearbook of Participating Community Seed Initiatives