Nanticoke, Rowen White, Tina Square and Mary Arquette sitting
in the back of their van loaded with harvested seeds.
In early November several Akwesasronon traveled to the Hudson
Valley to take part in a harvest grown between several communities:
the Hudson Valley Farm Hub, the newly created Native American Seed
Sanctuary and Akwesasronon programs. Located near Kingston NY, they
grew Native American varieties of corn, beans, squash and sunflowers
for the purpose of providing education, seed saving, ultimately
preserving our rich agricultural and cultural heritage. Once harvested,
the seeds returned to Akwesasne as well as other Haudenosaunee nations
to keep these varieties and their stories alive.
Mary Arquette, Akwesasne Cultural Restoration Program, youth
from the Ohero:kon program, and Rowen White, Mohawk Seedkeeper and
educator, along with Farm Hub Staff and volunteers spent two days
harvesting corn, beans and squash for seed harvesting. The harvest
activities included a ceremony at the Seed Sanctuary in preparation
for the harvest of the Mohawk Red Bread Corn. Participants were
also taught methods and traditions for braiding the husks of Mohawk
Red Bread corn for hanging and drying.
During the actual harvesting and braiding, seed and planting
songs were often sung in Mohawk language, blending with conversation
in English and in Spanish.
workbee readying the harvested red Mohawk corn for braiding.
Rowen White, seed keeper, farmer, and educator who is currently
writing a book on agricultural and seed legacy of the Haudenosaunee
and Mohawk people stated, "For the Mohawk people, these seeds
are like our relatives," says White, and they will "create
the beautiful garden that we want for our children and grandchildren.
These seeds represent the co-evolution of our ancestors and our
plants, and are therefore part of the reclaiming of our heritage."
The seeds will return to Akwesasne where they will be planted
in conjunction with Akwesasne Cultural Restoration program initiatives,
Kanehiio, Ohero:kon and other youth groups working to keep our native
and natural food culture alive.
Mary Arquette shared her thoughts on this event, "Such
heartfelt time spent with these beautiful fellow SeedKeepers and
strong Mohawk women from my Home community of Akwesasne.
Women are the keepers of Life, and when we come together to
cultivate the Earth and sing our seed songs and prayers on behalf
of future generations, we embody the great generous and benevolence
of our own beloved Mother Earth. We spent the day preparing seeds
and braiding corn and gathering these sacred bundles of food to
share with our home community of Akwesasne.
The diversity of people who came to share story and laughter
was inspiring, and those prayers will never die, will always continue
to multiply exponentially, just as one kernel turns into whole cobs
of corn. My heart is as full as this van of food and seeds, as it
makes its way north just in time for Harvest Ceremonies. Over 500
pounds of corn plus beans, squash and sunflowers will nourish so
Herne, Scott Martin, Ken Greene, Hudson Valley Seed Library
founder, and Mary Arquette.
There was no better way to spend Dia De Los Muertos, than to
be honoring our precious ancestral seeds with some of my dear friends
from Akwesasne and Hudson Valley. In a grand circle of healing and
sharing, we harvested an acre of beautiful Mohawk Red Bread Corn,
alongside squash and beans that were planted in a act of reconciliation
between descendants on multiple different sides of the history here
on this land in the Hudson Valley. We planted side by side in a
grand effort to compost some of these past failures and adversarial
relations, and to move forward in the healing process between two
different peoples. This Native Seed Sanctuary was a rematriation
of indigenous seeds planted back into land that historically was
Mohawk territory, and was a collaboration between myself and the
Akwesasne Cultural Restoration program and Kanenhiio, Ohero:kon
Rites of Passage, Hudson Valley Farm Hub and Hudson Valley Seed
Our friends from Akwesasne will carry home hundreds of pounds
of corn, beans, and squash of our traditional varieties to share
with the community. The prayers that infuse these seeds and foods
will continue to bless many as they are planted and eaten.
Our laughter, tears, song and story shared today will forever
linger in the memory of these seeds, and is a prayer for the continued
nourishment of future generations and for us to continue to be in
good mind to uphold our responsibility and sacred agreements to
care for the seeds and plant Kin and to always remember to offer
gratitude for the Life they give us."
This project is sponsored in part by the Saint Regis Mohawk
Tribe and the Hudson Valley Seed Library.