By Terrylynn Brant
“Give Away”. At a time when hoarding and greed are in full swing, Mohawk Seedkeeper Gardens held their annual Heritage Seed Give Away.
Give Aways are a practise of many indigenous cultures that have survived the assaults of western cultures. Holding “Give Aways” became a way to move wealth among the people and Haudenosaune Nations are very good at it.
The sharing of the basic needs of life have helped form the bases of our communal society. The idea that if one eats, we all eat. If one drinks, we all drink. If one breathes we all breathe. If one is healthy, we are all healthy, and that is our communal responsibility.
This year with the many restrictions put on our lives due to the covid virus the annual Seedkeepers Gathering event which usually attracts people from all the Haudenosaunee territories to share seeds and traditional gardening knowledge had to find a way to give away seeds.
Many individuals have expressed the desire to get out and plant over the years but the hustle and bustle of western society has prevented many from getting started. So if there is any good to come of our stay at home orders it seems our gardens are going to benefit. For many locals who attended the Give Away said this will be their first garden and their first real attempt to feed themselves and their families.
This year we created the Haudenosaunee Heritage Seed Collection using some of our more popular Haudenosaunee varieties. The collection included Oneida White Kidney Bean, Hi:yo (Seneca) Bean, Six Nations Bush Bean, and my personal favourite , the Cherokee Trail of Tears Black Bean. We added Six Nations White Corn and either Big Fellow Calico Corn or Tekanenharí:kon Corn, our traditional sweet corn. Local pollinators such as Black Eyed Susans, Purple Corn Flowers, dill and oregano, all locally harvested and grown organically were added and to finish off the package we added Mohawk Blue Potatoes and Music Garlic, a Canadian heritage variety.
The Give Away was organized through the facebook page of Mohawk Seedkeepers. We created a post about what we had and the first 50 Six Nations and New Credit local families to respond picked up their seeds this week using recommended social distancing practises. The response was so overwhelming with many non-residents from all over Indian Country asking. We only wished we had more seeds to distribute and the international mail system was operating.
Many are experiencing the problems and difficulties with buying groceries through this world pandemic and this has resulted in a boom in home garden revitalization. The Seedkeeper’s facebook page/messenger has gone crazy with questions so we started making videos to help gardeners understand the basics of traditional gardening and with almost 2000 views I would say it is a hit.
“ I totally love what you are doing, it brought joy to even read this.”
“I would be honoured for the opportunity to continue the hard work you have done… to carry on planting the seeds that you have been collecting all these years!!
“Would love to honour more plants here at New Credit, thanks for looking forward for everyone’s food security thanks for your generous offer and continue the heritage you have preserved”
“I grew up helping my grandparents in their garden and now that I have children I would love to show them how… it would be a learning curve for me”
Having the chance to share in peoples agricultural journeys has created a journey in cultural revitalization. Locals have always known they are a part of an agricultural society which has many ceremonies, customs, songs, dances and seeds and now they are turning to it as a way to heal and create a healthy community. Mentoring and sharing are key methods used in living our heritage.
Mohawk Seedkeeper Gardens is a Haudenosaunee Agricultural Skills Centre operating for the past 7 years on Six Nations. The agricultural resource centre provides classes and demonstrations in all areas of traditional agriculture, food preservation, natural building, and ceremonial connections. People come to the gardens to see and have hands on experiences with all things food related and to learn about the sustainable living skills of indigenous people. There are mentoring opportunities available and students from all over the world and many different indigenous Nations have come to learn and to share the ways of their ancestors. All are welcome to stop by.
We will be following these 50 families through out their agricultural journey. We welcome more families and still have some corn seed available. We are looking for help with recording and sharing this journey with the Confederacy and the world so contact us if you want to support or learn about our agricultural ways.
Niawen and Happy Gardening!
You can reach Terrylyn Brant on Facebook at Mohawk Seedkeepers.