We do not own the seeds, we borrow them from our Children”
While the educational spaces that we cultivate at Sierra Seeds invite in people of diverse backgrounds, I have channeled some of the work that I have developed into a legacy initative called “Indigenous Seedkeepers Network.” In 2016, I approached Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance with an invitation for a collaborative endeavor that would ensure a common legacy for the seed sovereignty work that many of us indigenous seedkeepers here in North America were embarking upon.
All across Turtle Island (North America) we are seeing a great resurgence of indigenous 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. The Indigenous Seed Keepers Network is helping leverage resources for indigenous communities cultivating culturally appropriate solutions to restoring seed stewardship of traditional foods.
In the age of the increasing industrialization of our food and the erosion of biodiversity within cultural contexts, the Indigenous Seed Keeper Network asks the questions that assists communities of diverse cultures and backgrounds; Can we envision the Seed Commons, and coordinate collaborative efforts to care and protect for our seeds that is in right relationship to a diverse understanding of cultural values and cosmology?
How can we use the process of reclaiming our traditional seeds and food as a powerful means of cultural restoration? Integral in this seed movement is the cultural memories and stories, and how we regain a sense of who we are as a culture through our foods and seeds.
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 complement 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.
“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 inherent 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.
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.