White Earth Land Recovery Project

Report date
August 2016

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 gather in person two times a year, at the Indigenous Farming Conference (March 3-6, 2016) and at Shakopee, MN (January, 2016). 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. This allows us to have a good big picture and more accurate view of how each project is coming along, and connect on a personal level. Many of the participants of the network find the monthly calls essential to the growth of our work.
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. The workshops are invaluable for the program coordinator to meet individuals first hand and observe the needs of each community.
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.

Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving

Collaborative has been obviously the most important element in our work. We work with over 13 tribal nations and communities and supporting each other is an essential aspect of the success of this work. There is some drama and obstacles in our groups are there are in every group so we have to stay positive and communicate positively to affect change. I am proud of our group and all of our successes. I believe it has to do with our ability to speak about our work with confidence and ask for help when needed. There has been much ancestral agricultural knowledge lost during the colonization period, and many native individuals are in a healing process. Working with plants and seeds is healing work and we find it relatively easy to remain rooted and positive with each other and our work. It makes me happy to see the collaborative efforts of our work grow and witness the eagerness to learn from each other. It is a strong point in our Indigenous Seed Network that will last for generations to come.