For the community members of the St. Regis Mohawk/Akwesasne Tribe of northern New York, seeds are not just commodities to be planted for food, they are sacred. When their seeds disappear, so do their ceremonies, language, songs, farming practices, and connections to their ancestors.
The Native American Seed Sanctuary project is an outgrowth of an existing partnership with The Hudson Valley Farm Hub and Seedshed.org, a nonprofit founded by Hudson Valley Seed Company founder, Ken Greene. In 2016, the opportunity to create a Native American Seed Sanctuary was realized with the Farm Hub’s pledge of land, equipment and staff, and made possible through Ken’s friendship with Rowan White, a renowned seed keeper, farmer, educator, and member of Mohawk Akwesasne tribal community.
Seedshed is managing the hand cultivated plots and will be overseeing the harvest and seed saving of the larger corn plot in collaboration with Farm Hub team. This collaborative project forged strong bonds between the Akwesasne community, Mexican farm workers, youth from the Bronx and Kingston, staff at the Farm Hub, and many volunteers in the community.
For the first year of the collaboration, Rowan provided Seedshed with Onondoga sunflower seeds as well as Mohawk Red Bread corn, Canada Crookneck squash, Buffalo Creek Squash, and Iroquois Buckskin Brown beans for a traditional “Three Sisters” planting. There were only two ears of the sacred Mohawk corn left in existence. Rowan
entrusted six pounds to Ken and to date, the project has produced almost 2000 pounds of the corn. All of the seed and food produced is rematriated to the Akwesasne community to feed people traditional foods and increase seed stock to help them work towards seed sovereignty.
There is no doubt that logistical support and seed saving know-how are key to the success of the crop. But what truly lends meaning and integrity to the project is the participation of members of the Haudenosaunee community in Akwesasne. Only with their advisement can we ensure that the sacred nature of these seeds is fully acknowledged and that the plants and seeds are cared for with the utmost respect for their Native American origins.
Learn more about the Project:
Some of the participants in this project appeared in the film Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds: https://www.opensesamemovie.com/
A short film is currently being produced about the project.