Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
May 6, 2000 - Issue 09

Native Seeds/SEARCH
by Vicki Lockard

Native Seeds/SEARCH (NS/S) is a nonprofit organization that is working to preserve traditional crops, seeds, and farming methods that have sustained native peoples in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico. What this means is that they are promoting the use of ancient crops and their relatives by gathering, safeguarding, and distributing their seeds within traditional communitities.

NS/S was founded in 1983 as a result of Native Americans on the Tohono O'odham reservation near Tucson, Az, who wished to grow traditional crops, but could not locate the seeds. The founders began a quest for these seeds that has grown into over 1800 collections, many of them rare or endangered. The unique feature of NS/S is that not only do they have the seed collections, they have also collected the traditions and stories that go with these seeds. This collection is maintained in their data base and is accessible only to those who the originator of the seeds designates. This can be only the family, the community or open access.

Native Seeds/SEARCH is also doing research into the diabetes that is almost epidemic among some of the Native communities. Through their efforts, they have a project that promotes the use of traditional foods such as cholla cactus buds, saguaro fruit, prickly pear pads and fruit, mesquite pods, desert chia and tepary beans as well as some modern substitutes. Videotapes and printed materials have been produced from a cultural prospective to make tribal members, as well as health professionals and teachers working with these groups, aware of how eating these foods may help one avoid diabetes or, if already affected by the disease, how one might be able to regulate blood sugar. They also encourage tribal members to raise activity levels through participation in cultural traditions such as toka (a women's field hockey game), round dancing and gathering the foods of the desert. These foods can be ordered from their catalogue.

Through their Native American Outreach Program Native Seeds/SEARCH has discovered a great enthusiasm for reclaiming traditions and adapting them to modern life. They are working to expand their Native American membership, currently 20%, and continuing to provide garden workshops and support, discounts on traditional foods, and serve as an information clearing house.

For More information on this wonderful program visit their site at
Native Seeds/SEARCH

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