Seed Keepers and Rowen White

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Photos by D.Kakkak

One of the world’s wonderful speakers about the nature of, treatment, care and planting of seeds is Akwesasne Mohawk seed keeper Rowen White. Through several workshops in the Great Lakes and at the Gun Lake Pottawatomi tribes’ Camp Jijak in 2016 and 2017 White has led discussions on the cultural treatment, history and love of seeds that Indigenous people have.

White also brought some of her wonderful and extensive seed collections to assist in teaching people about the role of labeling, organizing, acclimating and caring for seeds for storage and planting. At just about any event that Rowen attends, there will be an abundance of seeds to look at, and in many cases share or exchange.

According to Rowen White “once you step on the seed keepers path, you will have more seeds then you know what to do with, because seeds, they are always multiplying exponentially.”

Many of the conferences, sponsored in part by the Inter-Tribal Agricultural Council (IAC) are meant to help bring and grow opportunities for American Indian farmers, growers, forage and gatherers and enhance the ability of Indigenous communities to become food self-sufficient once again.

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Historic Tribal Economies

Food, Fuel and Our Future Economies?

Did you know that in 1865, the Mackinaw Indian Agency reported that Chippewa Indians at the Keeweenaw Bay Indian Reservation, Lanse, Michigan produced 453,252 pounds of Maple Sugar that was sold to east coast businessmen?

Within 20 years, the maple sugaring business was in decline both because of heavy lumbering of sugar maple groves and the acquisition of Caribbean territories, Hawaii and other sugar cane growing colonies. Cane sugar, (which has less then half the healthy nutrients and ingredients as maple), and plantations in those territories reduced the cost of sugar by 50% or more, and along with it, the demand for maple sugar for food preservation, brewing rum and making other sweet things.

In 2014 prices at $55 a gallon (in 2015 a gallon of Penokee Gold Maple Syrup was being sold for $75 to $100 a gallon) the value of the syrup sold would have been around an estimated $1,705.000. In 2014 prices for a pound of sugar at $18 a pound, the value of the sale could have been close to $4,460,000. On some Wisconsin reservations a pound of maple sugar has been selling between $22-$25 a pound in 2015.

If the sugar had been made into small candies and other Value Added Products which double or triple the value of your basic product the potential income at retail values in your store, could have produced as much as $5,115,000 in sales.

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Historic photo is of Ms. Mink of the Mille Lacs Ojibwe Reservation during the 1920s. Look closely at the tap which is not a carved round sumac tap, but appears to be more of a flat inserted wafer board or metal.

Appointments Announced for USDA Council on Native American Farming and Ranching

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has appointed members to the new USDA Council for Native American Farming and Ranching (CNAFR). CNAFR is an advisory committee that will work with the Secretary to improve American Indian access to the department’s programs, as well as helping to make them more responsive to native food producers’ needs.

See the list of appointees to learn more at

http://blogs.usda.gov/2012/05/24/intertribal-agriculture-council-executive-director-praises-appointment-of-members-to-the-usda-council-for-native-american-farming-and-ranching/

Farm Bill on NY Times

Here’s a link to a recent New York Times roundtable on the 2012 Farm Bill.

The Intertribal Agriculture Council is presently working create recommendations on provisions in the 2012 Farm Bill affecting Indian agriculture and food production.  We will be distributing a draft of those recommendations in the near future.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on the 2012 in the comment section of this post, or send them to IACFarmBill2012@gmail.com.

Bison Reductions in Yellowstone

This article is definitely relevant to tribal food issues since it discusses a staff recommendation to reduce Yellowstone National Park’s bison herd for effective management purposes.  A hunt is one of the strategies, but the article also points out that there have been numerous calls for increased cooperation with tribes seeking to expand their buffalo herds.  While Yellowstone’s buffalo population is one of the most genetically healthy in the world, the animals do have issues with brucellosis, which is an animal disease affecting pregnancy that has been eradicated through most of the world.