White Earth Land Recovery Project

Report date
June 2018

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

Communication has been the most instrumental aspect for the Upper Midwest Indigenous Seed Keepers Network. One of our partners, Dan Cornelius, our Intertribal Ag Technical assistant has provided us use of conference call numbers. It's essential for our network, which consists of community leaders from over 14 tribes in the Upper Midwest region (MN, WI, IA, ND, MI) to communicate on a regular basis. We have monthly conference calls to exchange ideas to strengthen indigenous seed sovereignty efforts. We also gathered in person at the Indigenous Farming Conference March 4-7, 2018. Keeping good communication with all of the partners lets us know how everything is going at each individual community as well as the general strengths and needs of all the communities.

The Native American Food Sovereignty Initiative, Seed Savers Exchange, Museums, and Universities (Michigan), are working together to bring the Indigenous Seed Keeping effort to the national scale and rematriate these seed back home to the tribes where they were from.
We host four 2-day seed workshops in each of the native communities per year. This is an essential part of the "train the trainers" seed keeping program. We hire nationally acclaimed native seed keeping educators such as Rowen White and Terrylynn Brandt as well as plant breeders Frank Kutka and Walter Goldstein, local presenters, storytellers, native chefs, and requested guests. The agenda is made with people from each community with project advisor, mohawk seed keeper Rowen White and provide essential seed saving basics, stories, and information the communities are seeking to help form their individual seed sovereignty projects and seed banks. After the training, we provide the community with necessary training materials to host continued workshops and gatherings. We also have room in the agenda for discussion on the successes and challenges.

In the 2017/2018 year we have identified Jessika Greendeer from Ho Chunk as a seed keeping leader in the Upper Midwest Region. She has been growing out her family's corn and attended many of Rowen White's seed saving trainings. Jessika is a great educator and is very passionate about the work.
The three school garden managers from three reservation schools (Pine Point, Naytahwaush, and Circle of Life Academy) on the White Earth Reservation has provided positive weekly gardening programs at each elementary school locations. Each garden manager is hired to manage both the gardens at the school and to get 10 kids out to the gardens each week for a few hours. The garden managers are using the Anishinaabe nutrition curriculum created by our staff. This 13-month seasonal curriculum is focused on youth from 4-12 that are in each of these three schools. The youth in the schools learn about eating healthy, and culturally seasonal food.

The 13 Moons Anishinaabe Nutrition Curriculum has been published by WELRP by April 2018. The protocol of the curriculum was discussed at the Indigenous Farming Conference in March 2018. Together, we co-wrote a protocol for non-native educators as well as native educator whom need help with language to get the cultural support they need with the tribal community they are working with. This enables more people including SNAP Educators to use this culturally appropriate curriculum in native communities as well as connect with community members.

Progress toward an innovation

We are closer now to a more sovereign seed system in the Upper Midwest Indigenous Seed Keeping community because we have pooled our resources, worked with elders, youth and community members from 14 tribes. Our shared experience and resource is much more valuable together than separate. Connecting individuals and programming has been the key to making our initiative a success. May people were inspired by Mohawk seed keeper, Rowen White having the opportunity to come to their tribe, see their garden, sit down and visit as well as provide useful information to help save their seeds from both a scientific and indigenous background as well as strategies for long term stewardship.

One last thought

Thank you for this opportunity. This project has made such a positive impact on not only the individuals and community members of the 14 tribes, but the seeds and plants themselves.