Lambert here: I hope your catalogs have come! (Some may bristle at the indigenous focus, but I think it’s undeniable that non-industrial food tastes better, and good-tasting food encourages conviviality, which I think is an important social value.)
By Breanna Draxler, the climate editor at YES!. Republished from >Alternet.
“Our seeds are more than just food for us. Yes, they are nutrition. But they’re also… spirituality,” says Electa Hare-RedCorn, a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and a Yankton descendant. “Each seed has a story and each seed has a prayer.”
With a background in social work, Hare-RedCorn was brought on to the Pawnee Seed Preservation Project in 2012 as a seed-keeper, to carry the conversation forward with youth and families. The project, she says, has since become a movement.
“Being tied to the seed work has helped me see that traditional ecological knowledge—the understanding of our connection to the soil, seeds, and our culture—it’s all intrinsically tied together,” Hare-RedCorn says. “Even if policy has definitely tried to strip that away, we still have a unique relationship with the seeds and what they mean to us.”
Hare-RedCorn fondly recalled when one particular intern joined the Pawnee Seed Preservation Project in 2016. Hare-RedCorn explained to her that everybody is a part of agriculture and the food system in some way—we consume food; we grow food; we wear clothing from fibers; we prepare food for others. And then she asked the incoming intern: “How, at this moment, are you part of this?” to which the intern replied, “Well, I eat.”
Hare-RedCorn says this young woman has since found her passion in seed preservation and is continuing the work of bringing back Pawnee varieties of corn that have been lost over time. When Hare-RedCorn began working with Pawnee corn, only three varieties were known. But through the work of the preservation project, Hare-RedCorn says, that number has grown to 11 varieties—each with its own role in the community and its cultural traditions.
And this former intern—whose initial connection to agriculture was summed up by consumption—now has a full scholarship to study soil science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Upon graduation, Hare-RedCorn says, the former intern will be the first Pawnee agronomist.
“Part of what I’m trying to do with my role is just to help my Pawnee people recognize that the corn means so much to us,” Hare-RedCorn says. “The corn is intrinsically tied to the soil, and the soil is tied to land, and all of these things that will help us.” The corn will help to restore a culture of health, she says, through which members can be nourished and sustained. And, she says, the corn will help reinstate spiritual practices including songs and prayers that were lost when the people were forced off their land.
“It’s all about respect for the land we’re taking care of and that takes care of us,” Hare-RedCorn says.
The traditional homeland of the Pawnee people is in Nebraska, but they were forcibly removed by the U.S. government in 1874 and pushed to Oklahoma, where the present population resides. The relentless pursuit of the West by settlers stripped the Pawnee people of their land, the lives of countless people, and many of their traditional ways of life, including the cultivation of corn.