Indigenous Seed Sovereignty
“Our foods are a part of our culture and way of life…Our seeds contain histories of our people and contain the security of future generations. In this generation we will ensure that our fish, root crops, buffalo, forests and other foods are retained for the generations yet to come. Food is a human right not to be purchased, or simply delivered in sacks and commodities, but to be grown and harvested in our communities and traditional territories.”
All across Turtle Island (North America) we are seeing a great resurgence of 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. If a community is to be truly sovereign and free from colonizing forces, they must be able to feed and nourish themselves with culturally appropriate foods. Food and seed sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. This is the true foundation for the healing from the violent disruption of culture and communities due to colonization and globalization. Removed from their lands and forced to assimilate into Western culture, many native people no longer live in their traditional territories nor do they eat their traditional foods. Many processed and introduced foods have become the staple, and nutritional-related diseases such as Type II diabetes and heart disease have become epidemics.
Through educational Indigenous Seed Keeper workshops, with an emphasis on traditional methods of seed stewardship, restoring traditional ecological knowledge and indigenous foodways, and finding creative and new ways of bringing these exquisite indigenous foods back into our daily diets, we are honoring that food is truly our best medicine.
The food sovereignty movement is the most innovative approach to restoration of culture and the long term goal of food security.
“Sacred or Divine Sovereignty- Food is a gift from the Creator; in this respect the right to food is sacred and cannot be constrained or recalled by colonial laws, policies and institutions. Indigenous food sovereignty is fundamentally achieved by upholding our sacred responsibility to nurture healthy, interdependent relationships with the land, plants and animals that provide us with our food. “ -Indigenous Food Sovereignty Network
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.
I am continually amazed by the resilience of our indigenous communities, 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.
Many tangible outcomes and new projects have begun to sprout as a result of these Seed Keepers gatherings. A group in the Great Lakes region is establishing a Intertribal Seed Alliance, which will help support indigenous seed efforts in the Great Lakes region and beyond. Also, many committed to be a part of a working group to create a collaborative framework and declaration for ethical seed stewardship and indigenous seed guidelines for tribal communities to adopt to protect their seeds from patenting and bio-piracy.
Despite the scorched earth tactics of countless colonial and imperial forces to try and starve us into submission and cultural amnesia, many of our people and seeds survived; like seeds from dark rich earth we sprout once again, nourishing today dreams of hope and renewal of a new peaceful existence where children know no hunger and our communities are healthy in mind, body and spirit once again. …
These Seed Keeper trainings are an honoring song for our collective and ancient cultural memories that still resonate in our blood and bones and for these time honored agreements we have made with the plants who nourish us: we will take care of you and you will take care of us. Together with our stories, our voices, our visions and our presence, we weave a basket together to hold all the seeds of hope that nourish….We weave a vessel inside our hearts that makes the ancestors rejoice, one that holds the stories of how we survived with hope in our hearts and seeds in our pockets. We are still here. We are still vibrant. We are indigenous families with beautifully sustainable ways of living and nourishing our communities. These gatherings and workshops are a story of healing through many generations.
I am honored to be invited to various tribal communities to help facilitate conversations to draft a roadmap on how to cultivate healthy resilient traditional food and seed ways. I am continually humbled by the circle of bright minds who continue to come together with good mind and heart to take care of our precious collective inheritance of seeds, traditional knowledge for the children of this Earth. So grateful for this path that expands my heart and teaches me so much, and brings me into good company with true indigenous visionaries.
Some of the potent questions that come up in dialogue from these :
What ways in your community are you supporting seed savers and seed keepers?
How do we value and support the work of these people in our community, and how do we make a community seed resource that is sustainable?
Can we envision the Seed Commons, and coordinate collaborative efforts to care and protect for our seeds that is in right relationship to our indigenous cosmology?
How do we recreate an economy that doesn’t treat seeds as objects but as living breathing relatives?
There are always many powerful stories and answers to these questions from our spirited indigenous leaders that participate. We take the time to strategize and outlines action plans on reviving seed stewardship programs, identifying both the challenges and assets that each community has in relation to sustainable seed programs. Overall, we see the role of seed stewardship as a powerful mechanism for cultural renewal.
Rowen offers her consulting and strategic visioning services to tribal communities wishing to build programs and projects that focus on food and seed sovereignty. She has worked as a facilitator in collaboration with inspired tribal members from many tribal communities across Turtle Island, including the Anishanaabe in Minnesota, the Paiute in Eastern California and Nevada and the Haudenosaunee/Mohawk/Seneca in Northern NY and southern Canada.
Here are some of the programs we are helping to grow a more prosperous and abundant healthy food community:
Indigenous Seed Sovereignty Network:
Bishop Paiute Food Sovereignty Program
If you are interested in bringing Rowen in as a consultant, facilitator, or public speaker, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
“This is the learning we all deserve and need in k-12 education if we are to truly turn around our collective relationship with mother earth and tend a sustainable future for and with our children and grandchildren. Part botany, part biology, part farming and all organic with a solid integration of nutrition, global, colonial to grassroots local seed history,…this Seed Keeper Intensive covered so many issues and Rowan and her team/fam were beyond gracious hosts and teachers, more like extended family. Grassroots, inspirational, sociological and distinctly indigenous. Extremely relevant to my life and community. Thank you!” Kris, Bishop Paiute