A Seed Saving Garden

The Native American Seed Sanctuary was renamed “Kanenhaká:ion Tsiakwaiénthos: the Akwesasne Seed Rematriation Garden” to further honor its roots

A Seed Saving Garden

A kaleidoscope of vegetables and flowers, each symbolizing an initiative connected with seed saving, blossoms under shifting seasons. The garden includes the Hiawatha Belt Arbor, pollinator friendly flowers, the Akwesasne Seed Rematriation Garden and new partnerships.

By Amy Wu

 

A sunflower under the blue sky of summer.

Tucked within a farmscape of cover crops is a two acre piece of land that serves as home to a tapestry of vegetables and flowers. On this late summer day butterflies playfully chase one another and bumble bees draw figure eights in flight. A sunflower with its plate-sized head nods hello and good morning to visitors.

The Native American Seed Sanctuary, a partnership between the Mohawk Akwesasne community, Seedshed (a nonprofit that focuses on seed justice) and the Farm Hub was launched in 2015 with a purpose of rematriating saved seed varieties back to the Mohawk Nation community of Akwesasne, and preserving the agricultural and cultural heritage of the Native American people.

In 2020 the initiative celebrated its fifth anniversary with several milestones, including a new name. The Native American Seed Sanctuary was renamed Kanenhaká:ion Tsiakwaiénthos: the Akwesasne Seed Rematriation Garden to further honor its roots. 

Flowers are an important part of the pollination process inside the garden.

New developments this year included a field of Bear Paw Popcorn which, along with beans and squash, were returned to the Akwesasne Freedom School and a Mother Earth Garden shaped in a woman’s figure created to teach youth about the Mohawk creation story, food, and farming.

Mary Arquette, who works through the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment supporting the gardens at the Akwesasne Freedom School, says: “I grew up in the garden. We grow our food and seeds at home to share with the community. To keep our language, our seeds, and our foods alive is important because without them we no longer exist as a people. Planting these seeds is the way we live.”

In addition, the initiative has expanded to include new partnerships such as the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library. 

Ken Greene, founder of Seedshed, stands in front of the Yakteen gourd tunnel.

The vegetables and plants in the garden represent the new partnerships. And while each comes with its unique story, these organizations all share the common value of saving seeds to support seed justice in a specific community.

Ken Greene, the founder of Seedshed, says: “We believe that seeds, as life-giving beings, are our caregivers. In return, we care for seeds in a way that nurtures the relationships among humans, the living soil, the elements, and diverse members of our natural ecosystem. Everything grown here is cared for under the guidance of leaders from each seed’s home community. And all of the seeds harvested are rematriated to the hands and lands of our partnering communities.”

The Hiawatha Belt Arbor inside the Akwesasne Seed Rematriation Garden.
There are features within the garden that hold special meaning for members of the Mohawk Akwesasne community.

Kenny Perkins, Akwesasne Seed Keeper for Seedshed, points to the Hiawatha Belt Arbor that divides the produce represented by partners and that of the Akwesasne.

“The Hiawatha Belt Arbor represents the reintroduction of the old seeds to their ancient homelands. An archway to say you are home and a reminder to be at peace and of good mind when you are with the seeds,”says Kenny Perkins the Akwesasne Seed Keeper for Seedshed.

 

Join us on a mini-tour of the Seed Gardens and Akwesasne Seed Rematriation Garden:

 

To watch our short documentary “Seeds of Hope” that tells the story of this special initiative click here.
 

Here below, individuals from the various partner organizations share their passion and their connection with the Garden. The Lenape Center

An assortment of beans grown for seed saving.

“Xkànim, the Lenape word for seed, represents the pathway for the return of the Lenape to ancestral lands. The corn and beans being grown in partnership with Seedshed represent the Lenape Center’s mission: to continue Lenapehoking, the Lenape homeland, to push back against erasure and seed the ground with Lenape consciousness for future generations,” Joe Baker, The Lenape Center

Lenape Beans, Sehsapsing Corn, Hannah Freeman Bean, Purple Kingsessing Bean, and Blue Shackamaxon Bean

 

Palestine Heirloom Seed Library

Yakteen edible gourds.

“Yakteen is a magical being, a beloved Palestinian food. Yakteen will take over your world, transforming it into an ocean of green vines, broad velvet leaves, lacy white flowers, and pale green bottle shaped fruits that can be used for food, healing, and making bowls. When we plant seed in the ground say this prayer “may we eat and may we feed others.” This partnership allows us to share these seeds, and our cultural dishes, with Palestinians living in the United States as well as inspire more people to fall in love with Yakteen,” Vivien Sansour, Palestine Heirloom Seed Library

Yakteen edible gourds

 

Morton Seed Library (Rhinecliff) 

Sammataro Bean

“These are our 100-year-old beans- from my grandfather, Francesco Sammataro, who immigrated to the United States in 1920 from Tusa on the coast of Sicily. They have been passed down for generations. Including these beans in the seed garden and the Morton Seed Library is a wonderful way to honor my grandfather’s and mother’s memory and provide continuity to this story,” Paul Siebold, Rhinebeck Community Garden

Sammataro Bean 

 

ReClaim Seed NYC 

Vegetables grown for ReClaim Seed NYC.

“Seeds are living links of a historical chain, anchoring us to a larger community, connecting us to our ancestors, rooting us firmly in the present, giving us a sense of identity, belonging, and purpose. Seeds, and the soil in which they are enveloped, form the foundation of our foodshed. Our regional seed partnership supports community-based food solutions by preserving the biodiversity that reflects the rich tapestry of NYC foodways. Accessing land through this model offers a regional solution to a challenge faced by urban and rural growers alike,” Jackie Pilati, Reclaim Seed NYC

Calico beans, resina calendula, and buttercrunch bib lettuce