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Forum Home - Go Back > General > Native Life > Native Issues Heirloom Seeds Heirloom Seeds

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Old 01-23-2016, 11:48 AM   #1
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Heirloom Seeds

Sometimes, some things really get under my skin & I get all fired up! LOL!!! In my family we have a saying….”Don’t get me started….”

Well, so, last month this article appeared in the Indian Country Today News website which claimed to be “The Shocking TRUE Story of That Giant Squash”

Here’s the link:
The Shocking True Story of That Giant Squash -

You can read the whole article for yourself if you want, but to give you a flavor of its contents, here are some selected excerpts:

“But the seed that produces the “Gete-Okosomin” squash also comes with a story that is not quite rooted in fact. The story goes that the seeds were inside a clay ball or vessel found in an archaeological dig on the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin. The tale continues, suggesting that dating of the clay vessel indicated that the seeds were more than 800 years old and had been lying dormant since the 13th century.

“…Kenton Lobe, an environmental studies professor at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba...the story is untrue, he said.

“(The university) tried to verify the story, which has appeared in print and broadcast news in the United States and Canada, but the bottom line is that “there was no clay ball,” he said.

“Every time the seeds changed hands, the legend of their origin grew a little bit more exciting, said Zachary Paige, who helped form the White Earth Seed Library. This is where the game of telephone starts,” said Paige, who also serves as manager of the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network. “We have no idea where the idea of the clay ball comes from.”
(My emphasis/bolding added to the above passages.)

Awe man, the way this article was written really bothered me!!! While I’m reading it, I’m like going…wtf?!! This especially irked me because this article was published on an NDN news outlet and because I personally know about some of these seeds.

Soooo….here’s what I think & how I responded:

Hmmm…for the record, there have been multiple different lots of seeds that have been excavated from the historic lands and territory of the Menominee people over time. By the way this article is written, it conveys an exclusive narrative of fabrication which precludes the fact that there are OTHER seeds which exist and are indeed ancient heirloom.

I would like to point out that just because these seeds discussed in this article which are being used by the Canadian Mennonite University may have come via a gift of the Miami Nation of Indiana, it does not necessarily mean that “this tale” as the author calls it is unsubstantiated & totally fictitious.

While Mr. Paige may have “no idea where the idea of the clay ball (vessel) comes from”, and while the author Ms. Landry writes that this “story…is not quite rooted in fact,” and in this article, Mr. Lobe states that “the rest of the story is untrue”, I would like to invite them to read the recent NAGPRA notice of repatriation by the Menominee Tribe:

Notice of Inventory Completion: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Anthropology, Madison, WI

that documents one instance of violation where in 1970 two individuals (Mr. Stoltman & Mr. Bennett) from the University of Wisconsin desecrated, excavated, removed & took possession of Native American ancestor’s human remains and associated funerary objects which included:

“…1 small prehistoric ceramic vessel with incised lines; 1 portion of a Madison Plain prehistoric ceramic vessel; 2 ceramic sherds representing a third, distinct vessel;…1 large section of a Point Sauble Collared vessel;...(AND) seeds. The site dates from the Late Woodland Period (ca. A.D. 1050-1150), based on the burial mounds and associated funerary objects.”

This notice also documents that the “mound was originally one of three conicals, but when Stoltman and Bennett arrived, much of the mound had already been removed.”

Sadly, this isn’t the only occurrence of the multiple documented & undocumented grave robberies carried out by university anthropologists, archeologists, self-interested profiteering collectors, and greedy museum vultures who unethically confiscated and expropriated the belongings of the Menominee people and those of a plethora of Indian tribes across this country.

Did it ever occur to these opportunistic parasites that certain items, knowledge, information, et al, are the exclusive proprietary property of indigenous people that they are not necessarily entitled to their possession in an eminent domain bully-like fashion?

Thanks to NAGPRA and to the dedicated persistence and tedious hard work of many Indians, some of our ancestors and our property are slowly and rightfully coming back to us.

I am mentioning the above published NAGPRA bulletin only since it is already a matter of public record and to repudiate the implicit bias (as illustrated in this article) that something that is organically Indian derived is somehow not true unless, and only if, it is ‘officially’ collaborated by non-NDN folks. I am also using it as a way to illustrate that just because something hasn’t been definitively proven (by you), perhaps it might be prudent to reserve judgment regarding the possibility that something exists.

I would like to offer an alternative theory that maybe, just maybe, the reason why this story and “other stories” can’t be verified is because it is ‘privileged & confidential information’ amongst Indian people that is shared on a ‘need to know’ basis. Eh?! (I believe those are the same type of legal words that are used by Monsanto who has already cornered the market/our earth on their copyrighted proprietary GMO corn seeds that many environmentalists believe are in the process of overrunning and contaminating natural seeds.)

My experience of Indian communities is that by our nature we are a generous and sharing people; but undeniably, there is good reason why many of us have become very protective because of the past predator behavior that has gone for centuries. I would argue that many of our suspicions are warranted due to the past disregard of our sacred objects, by the outright purposeful deception and false promises in some cases and by the mistreatment of our knowledge by others.

Undoubtedly there are some of us who have become weary of a bunch of non-Indians either laying claim, or obtaining Masters &/or Doctorate degrees in writing about us and/or financially profiting on book deals or on career advancement through leeching off of Indian intellectual property.

Let me be clear: I am not specifically commenting about the individuals who are mentioned in this article or about their behavior; I do not know them. Rather I am speaking about the distinct and well documented transgressions committed by others that are historical fact.

Hmmm…I’m just saying, hypothetically, that if I happened to be one of the recipients of some heirloom seeds that were handed down and entrusted to me to keep safe in my own clay seed jar (which obviously has been proven to be a reliable vessel) for the future, I might not go blabbing to any strangers who came poking around asking about them! Eh?!

Contrary to what some arrogant museum curators may assume and contrary to what some sincere university and govt. officials may believe, perhaps there are sacred reasons why we are the best shepherds to safe guard and protect the inheritance of our past.

Here is an associated tribal news article regarding "Menominee Ancestors Coming Home for Reburial"|10/9/2015
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