Okla. The Cherokee Nations Natural Resources Department
is again offering Cherokee gardeners a chance to grow a bit of the
tribes history and culture in their respective gardens using
heirloom seeds from its seed bank.
This year 13 seed varieties are being
offered. The seeds are free, but participating gardeners are asked
to help restock the seed bank by sending seeds from their crops
to the tribe.
To me, thats a really cool
thing. Its Cherokees helping Cherokees, administration
liaison Pat Gwin said. As far as we know we are the only Indian
tribe that grows our own heirloom seeds and distributes them to
our own citizens, so thats pretty cool too.
He said requests for seeds were down in
2012 because draught and the extreme heat during the summer of 2011
caused a difficult growing season. In 2012, about 2,500 seed packets
During the four years the seeds have been
given away, the highest number of seed packets given during a year
was 6,000, Gwin said. Some packets have been sent as far away as
But I really think by far the vast
majority of them go to California and the Tennessee area,
Gwin said the popularity of particular
seeds varies annually, but White Eagle Corn and Native Tobacco seeds
are always really popular.
Because of the difficult past summer,
crop yields were nominal. Subsequently some seed varieties are not
available this year because growers were not been able to send back
as many seeds. However, the seed bank maintains a genetic stock
of seeds that do not get intermingled with seeds that are sent back
to Natural Resources.
Weve been able to supply some
of the giveaway seeds because other parts of the country havent
been as hot as here and people have sent us seeds we are able to
send back out, Gwin said. They work really hard at this.
A lot of people think theyre not doing enough to fulfill their
end of the bargain if they dont grow enough to send some back,
so theyre always sending some back.
heirloom seeds are for plants that have been researched and are
historically related to the tribe. Seeds available this year include
Georgia Candy Roaster Squash, Jobs Tears (beads) and Jewel
and Dipper Gourds. Other species available include Cherokee Flour
Corn, which is large flour corn that includes white, yellow and
colored (multi-colored) varieties; Cherokee White Eagle Corn; the
Trail of Tears bean (small, jet black bean); Cherokee Long Greasy
bean; Turkey Gizzard bean; and Native Tobacco, which is a ceremonial
tobacco. Its not a smoking tobacco and is restricted to citizens
at least 18 years old.
Most of the seeds are rare cultivars not
widely available through commercial means.For
more information about the seed bank, call Mark Dunham at 918-453-5336
or visit the Natural Resources webpage at www.cherokee.org.
Seed requests can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Requests should include a name, scanned
copy of CN citizenship card (blue card), a mailing address where
the seeds should be sent, and if requesting tobacco seeds, proof
of being at least 18.
The CN has a limited supply of these seeds,
and every request may not be granted. Recipients are limited to
two seed varieties. Only one variety of corn and gourds may be requested
due to hybridization issues, so recipients should include one or
two alternate seed varieties. Also, alternate seed varieties should
be chosen because there is a limited supply of certain species.