White Earth Land Recovery Project
What has been most instrumental to your progress?
Communication has been the most instrumental aspect for the Upper Midwest Indigenous Seed Keepers Network. We have been using our Intertribal Ag Technical assistant Dan Cornelius’s conference call capability to have monthly calls. We have held our third annual seed keepers meeting at the Wozupi Farmhouse in Shakopee with representatives from over 14 tribes in the Upper Midwest region (MN, WI, IA, ND, MI) to strategize for the year. We have an Indigenous Seed Keepers Facebook page and a website. Rowen White, our primary seed keeping educator has been posting a monthly newsletter. At least a few seed keepers from our network attend various Food Sovereignty Conferences throughout the year and bring our branded seed packets to share. We send out email blasts whenever there is an upcoming event. Rowen also created an online seed keepers toolkit. I feel that our outreach and communication is strong and we have increased access to seed saving knowledge. I have witnessed more people becoming aware of the movement.
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 have hired nationally acclaimed native seed keeping educator Rowen White as well as plant breeder Frank Kutka, 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. This year we held the 2-day trainings in Fort Berthold, Meskwaki Nation, Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation.
This year, we have completed our 13 Moon Anishinaabe Nutrition Curriculum. This 13-month seasonal curriculum is focused on youth from 4-12 that are in three reservation schools in White Earth. The youth in the schools learn about eating healthy, and culturally seasonal food. The curriculum was written collectively by White Earth traditional knowledge keepers and is being implemented by the White Earth Health Department staff. Also, there are three school gardens and garden managers from three reservation schools (Pine Point, Naytahwaush, and Circle of Life Academy) on the White Earth Reservation. They have 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 also using the Anishinaabe nutrition curriculum created by our staff.
Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving
Collaborative has been obviously the most important element in our work although being resourceful is also very important. We work with over 13 tribal nations and communities and supporting each other is an essential aspect of the success of this work. Our UPISKN network has success due to our ability to speak about our work with confidence and ask for help when needed. We also realize that working together to grow out indigenous seeds in low quantity is necessary for the success of the work. 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.
One last thought
Thank you for supporting our work.