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Winona LaDuke tells Hampshire College graduates to ‘be agile and be adaptable’
Gazette Contributing Writer
She advised the 311 graduating students to think outside the box, take action where action is needed and do it with agility, adaptability and humility…”
More at: Gazettenet…(http://www.gazettenet.com/2011/05/2/winona-laduke-tells-hampshire-graduates-to-be-agile-and-be-adaptable)
Keepers of the seeds: Native farmers and gardeners are working to preserve their agricultural heritage.
Dateline: Tuesday, May 17, 2011
by Winona LaDuke
For 14 years, Caroline Chartrand, a Metis woman who recently traveled from Winnipeg, Canada, to the 8th annual Great Lakes Indigenous Farming Conference, has been looking for the heritage seeds of her people. It is believed that in the 1800s, the Metis grew some 120 distinct seed varieties in the Red River area of Canada. Of those, Caroline says, “We ended up finding about 20 so far.”
In Canada, three-quarters of all the crop varieties that existed before the 20th century are extinct. And, of the remaining quarter, only 10 percent are available commercially from Canadian seed companies (the remainder are held by gardeners and families). Over 64 percent of the commercially held seeds are offered by only one company; if those varieties are dropped, the seeds may be lost.
That’s the reason Caroline and about 100 other indigenous farmers and gardeners — along with students and community members — gathered in March on the White Earth reservation in Northern Minnesota to share knowledge, stories, and, of course, seeds.
In Canada, three-quarters of all the crop varieties that existed before the 20th century are extinct. A recent article by a prominent Canadian writer suggested that agriculture in Canada began with the arrival of Europeans. Caroline had to ask her, “What about all that agriculture before then?”
Caroline is a committed grower in the effort to recover northern Ojibwe corn varieties that once grew l00 miles north of Winnipeg — the northernmost known corn crop in the world. “That’s some adaptable corn,” said one of the conference participants said. “And,” added Betsy McDougall of Turtle Mountain, “We Ojibwes, Metis, and Crees must have been really good farmers.”
Indigenous farmers from the Winnebago reservation in Nebraska shared their struggles with genetically modified organisms (GMOs)encroaching on their fields, threatening to alter and potentially sterilize open-pollinated corn. While native corn varieties are richer in protein and much more resilient to climate change, they are not immune to GMO contamination. The advice shared amongst farmers was to eat from the edges and save seed from the middle, where corn is least likely to be affected by cross-pollination.
The experiences of our ancestors offer us wisdom for surviving today’s crises.
Despite the challenges, native farmers are having success in preserving the resilient crops that sustained their ancestors.
“Those seeds are the old ways. They gave our ancestors life for all those years,” said Frank Alegria, Sr. The son of migrant farm workers, Frank has been gardening since he could walk and farming on the Menominee reservation in Wisconsin since he was sixteen. Now an elder, he continues to grow native varieties, including an 850-year-old squash variety found in an archaeological dig near the Wisconsin border.
Deb Echohawk told the story of the sacred corn seeds of the Pawnee. By combining efforts with the descendants of settlers who live in the traditional Pawnee homelands in Nebraska, the Pawnee are recovering varieties thought to be lost forever. Deb and others have been formally recognized as keepers of the seeds.
John Torgrimson, executive director of Seed Savers Exchange, the nation’s largest non-governmental seed bank, talked about the organization’s humble beginning as a campout by a small group of committed individuals in Decorah, Iowa. More than 35 years later, they now preserve and grow out over 25,000 varieties of unique vegetables, fruits, grasses, and even a heritage cow breed at their 890 acre Heritage Farm.
Likewise, the White Earth Land Recovery Project, together with North Dakota State University, is working with a number of tribal members and local farmers to grow out five or six corn varieties adapted for the region, including white, pink, and black varieties. One farmer chuckled as he mentioned seeing animals strut past the more abundant GMO corn to feast on the native variety.
One of the outcomes of the conference was a working group that will plan a regional seed library. At the table were tribal members from White Earth, Red Lake, Leech Lake, Bad River, Menominee, Standing Rock Lakota, the Winnebago of Nebraska, and other reservations, as well as the Pawnee tribe’s keeper of seeds and the executive directors of Seed Savers Exchange and Seeds of Diversity (Canada). Many others joined the discussion, including a Midwest coordinator for USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, local allied growers, representatives from University of Minnesota, and various tribal colleges.
If you’d like to take part in the ongoing discussion and visioning of a Great Lakes Seed Library, join the Northern Indigenous Seed Sovereignty group by sending an emailing to the address below.
Winona LaDuke wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. A contributing editor to YES! Magazine, Winona is an author and activist who writes extensively on native and environmental issues. Her most recent book is Recovering the Sacred. She is an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg who lives and works on the White Earth Reservations.
“…Completed in February 2011, the book is currently at press and comes on the heels of the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, also known as “Geronimo EKIA” (Enemy Killed in Action).
“…In it she uses considerable scholarly prowess to examine how and why Native culture has become inextricably entwined with military institutions.
“…In a transcript of an interview with Amy Goodman of ‘Democracy Now,’ LaDuke charges this terminology and the use of the code name ‘Geronimo’ for bin Laden represent ‘the continuation of the wars against indigenous people.’
“…The Militarization of Indian Country examines in dreadful detail how the military has poisoned, murdered, and exterminated parts of indigenous populations. It is carefully organized into sections examining the deep ties between the military and indigenous people, how the economy drives the military and vice-versa, the military’s appropriation of Indian lands, and a somewhat hopeful prognosis for future relations if America rethinks her priorities.
“…LaDuke challenges the reader to grasp the disconnect inherent in the stereotype of Indian warriors as ‘bloodthirsty killers.’ “There are critical differences, however, between a war fought to defend the people and the land, and a war fought to create or sustain an empire, to impose colonial rule on an unwilling population,” LaDuke says.
“…In LaDuke’s narrative, the broken treaties, poisoned waters, rivers of tears, forced death marches and massacres such as the one at Wounded Knee serve to riddle the reader with guilt. It is not the guilt of immediate responsibility, but guilt that comes from realizing that ignorance breeds culpability.
LaDuke credits Portland editor Sean Cruz with providing valuable research and editing skills.
For more information and to order advance copies of The Militarization of Indian Country, please contact Honor The Earth at email@example.com.
- With your support, we were able to continue to expand our food growing (restoring climate change resistant varieties of corn to our people and land)…
- Over the past year, we’ve begun to focus on five varieties of corn – Manitoba White Flint, Bear Island Flint, Saskatchewan Flint, Dakota Popcorn and Pink Lady.
- We continue our work in the Farm to School Program at Pine Point Elementary School…
- Maanidikoshens Anokaajigan – The Goat Project We received a grant from the USDA to explore raising goats for our community.
- 7th Annual White Earth Canoe Race
- We erected our Lolland 75 kilowatt wind turbine, the only mid-sized wind turbine in the region.
- Also, we are moving ahead on our Niijii Broadcasting radio station, which will be on the air by 2011
EXCERPTS FROM 2010 STATEMENT OF OPERATIONS – REVENUES & EXPENSES:
|White Earth Land Recovery Project|
|2010 Statement of Operations – Revenues & Expenses|
|Grant Income||$ 647,008.00||64.98%|
|Other Income||$ 10,483.00||1.05%|
|Rental Income||$ 14,450.00||1.45%|
|Retail Sales||$ 120,220.00||12.07%|
|Wholesale Sales||$ 72,746.00||7.31%|
|Café Sales||$ 7,562.00||0.76%|
|Total Revenue||$ 995,745.00|
|Sustainable Communities||$ 104,326.00||12.63%|
|Energy Program||$ 105,307.00||12.75%|
|Education Program||$ 54,995.00||6.66%|
|Environmental Program||$ 69,198.00||8.38%|
|Land Program||$ 69,921.00||8.46%|
|Native Harvest||$ 253,849.00||30.73%|
|Fund Raising Expenses||$ 72,256.00||8.75%|
|Total Expenses||$ 826,089.00|
Manidoo Giizisoons 27, 2010
I want to thank you for your support this past year, and tell you some of what we’ve accomplished together.
Our work is both tangible and intangible- changing consciousness. We are keen to tell our story, and make a history today, which our descendants can refer to and say, “… Ah, that is what our people did….at that moment in history….”
So, we began the year in this way, telling history. We put together a display called Mii Wenji-Migaazoyaang— Why We Fight, which was featured at the Detroit Lakes Public Library. The display of artwork, maps, photos and newspaper clippings documented the history of the land rights and human rights struggles of the Anishinaabe people. Over 250 school children viewed the exhibit (the entire freshman class at the Detroit Lakes High School). And we were able to impart to the next generation of northern Minnesotans’, legislators, and educators some essential elements of Anishinaabe history and how people make a difference.
At the same time our staff was involved in organizing the Fish Off – an exercise of Anishinaabe treaty rights as recognized under the l855 treaty, recognizing Supreme Court decisions which have affirmed our people’s right to the fish, wild rice and medicines of this land. This was the first formal exercise of our treaty rights, and resulted in both some legal proceedings and , we hope some new negotiations to insure that our people can harvest the fish, wild rice and other foods the Creator has instructed us to eat, in our traditional territory.
Finally, with your help, we were able to actualize our radio station’s funding. We have been doing a good deal of ground work to develop NIIJII Broadcasting as an on- line independent media source for our reservation. With your help we moved ahead, and by this past fall, had received our PTFP grant for our radio station- $466,000- to serve a very large area. This will be an amazing opportunity for the North Country, and we are very confident that we will have a striking impact on consciousness in our reservation and far beyond.
Most recently, you might have noted the feature on our work- The Promised Land, with Majora Carter on National Public Radio. It is this “essential consciousness” which will help us become the people we were intended to be, and help change consciousness in our region.
Our wind turbine is erected. That is an amazing feat for our people. With some major re-engineering, creation of transition tubes, and absolutely new control panels, we have a turbine which will run at lower wind speeds and lower temperatures than any in its size. Having said that, due to the United States’ push on large turbines the territory of mid-sized wind turbines is largely undeveloped and very small.
Mid-sized wind is appropriately scaled for many tribal and rural communities, as it directly meets the needs of facilities (like our certified food processing facility), and is also scaled and created in a way which will enable local communities to learn and work on these machines. At the same time, our tribal government, using largely the intellectual capital we developed, was able to secure a large renewable energy jobs training grant for work on the reservation.
Our organization undertook some of the training, and is now looking to create a regional collaborative for green jobs and training in midsized wind, with our tribe, the University of Minnesota at Morris, and we hope with other partners in the region.
We know that owning the power- owning the wind project has three times the return for a community as leasing out your wind rights to a developer. And, we know that we must stand up and really make power for the people, if we are to change the dynamics of energy justice in this country and begin to address climate change.
This work, however, goes challenged at every step. The power company- Ottertail Power has required us to jump through many hoops, and we have passed through safely. We, however, will be unable to move ahead until this next spring, and require an additional sum of capitalizing of approximately $70,000 to build the infrastructure required by the utility. That is money we have to raise to change this system.
We have also deepened our work to bring back our ancestral corn varieties. This past year, our Pink Lady, Bear Island Flint, Dakota Black Popcorn, and Manitoba flint came in, and helped us fulfill promises to future generations to have food for the people. Over the past two years, our collaborative has included a number of local farmers and North Dakota State University. In this work, we are now focusing on approximately 6 varieties, which we hope to grow to viable levels for ceremonial, community nutrition and for sale to a larger community. These include our Bear Island Flint ( provided now for our cultural events), a Manitoba White flint – this needs to be grown out aggressively for three years, at least to get quantities which are viable. Two varieties of flour and polenta corn- one derived from an Italian polenta corn, which originally came from our area, and a pink lady corn, which is a magnificent magenta-colored, sweet tasting flour corn. We also hope to grow out black popcorn for commercial sale, and a blue flour corn for various other dishes. The beauty of recovering traditional varieties cannot be understated, and is met with very great enthusiasm in our community and beyond.
When we attended the Slow Food Terra Madre gathering in Turin, this past fall, we saw our corn varieties there as polenta, and joined with many farmers and harvesters worldwide to support the beautiful work to bring back ancestral varieties, not only because they are unique, but because they are high in nutrition, and pre-industrial. These varieties, we are sure will be more resilient in a time of climate change and reduced access to petroleum.
A new project in 2010 was with goats. We decided to bring these animals to our land to help improve our pastures, create an opportunity for new foods in a lactose intolerant community, and provide a meat product which can be offered to the nearby Somali community.
Our farm to school program is now in its fourth year. We have faced a few challenges, both now having the fourth principal in the school in as many years, and, building new capacity in our staff. We have enjoyed the food, and the children have as well. We hope to expand the depth of the program in the Pine Point School in 2011, and as well, have two additional schools – White Earth Circle of Life and Naytauwash Charter School, which have begun to provide local foods to their students. Our theory is that if someone puts forward the work, then others will follow the path. This has been borne out as true, by and large in our work in local food systems. Indeed, this November, we were able to present the work on tribal farm to school programs at the National Congress of American Indians meeting in Albuquerque, at the request of tribal leadership.
On another front, we are working to oppose regulatory changes at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency regarding sulfides. This discussion is underway because of the push to open a large mine in the Boundary Waters area, which will adversely impact the environment, and the wild rice. We have been part of the presentations and opposition to these changes. We will continue this work in 2011.
We will also redouble our work on pesticides in 2011. New allies have come into the arena regarding the wanton use of pesticides in industrial potato fields on our reservation and region. And, as well, we will work on the chemical Clothianidin (product name “Poncho”), and the issues surrounding EPA regulation of this Bayer product which is linked to colony collapse disorder in bees. We hope to expand the pollinators in the region, and will need to address the use of this in our territory.
To do this work, we need staff and resources. And we need your support- financially, politically, through buying our products and through passing the word on what we are doing up here on the reservation. We know that what we do is for everyone, and that the work of all of us is connected in a web which changes consciousness, and has the potential to create a better world for those yet to come.
Mino Ayaa Omaa Akiing-
Peace here on Earth,
Visit us in person 607 Main St. Callaway, MN 56521