Wabanaki Tribes Growing Heirloom Seeds for Heritage & Health

wabanaki ancestral squash

Maine’s Passamaquoddy people are once again growing and eating ancestral crops and saving the often rare seeds. These simple yet significant acts are tied to new research that sheds light on the sophisticated agriculture and accompanying plant-centric diet of the early Wabanaki people of northeastern North America, who lived and farmed in what we call Maine for 12,000 years before the European migration and colonization…

Planting these heirloom seeds is part of a wider effort by the Passamaquoddy to increase the amount of food produced on tribal land.  All the ancestral seeds have been linked to tribes of the Wabanaki Confederacy, which includes the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet, Micmac and Abenaki.

In 2014, Koasek Abenakis, the Seeds of Renewal Program and retired Johnson State College humanities professor Frederick M. Wiseman, who is Abenaki, gave these ancestral seeds to the Passamaquoddy tribe at Motahkokmikuk. The following spring, the seeds returned to Passamaquoddy soil and flourished.

Read the full article in the Press Herald here.

 

WPTZ’s Tom Messner with Chief Don Stevens and Professor Fred Wiseman

Four separate video segments:

  • Meteorologist Tom Messner of Burlington, Vermont’s WPTZ – NBC Channel 5 talks with Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe about indigenous persistence, traditional crops and wisdom, and educational outreach. Link here.
  • In the second segment, he speaks further with Professor Fred Wiseman, featuring artful interpretations of those themes by elementary students. Link here.
  • In the third segment, Tom continues to talk with Fed Wiseman about the Seeds of Renewal Project and the return of Abenaki heritage crops and techniques. Link here.
  • And in the fourth piece, members of the Nulhegan Abenaki drum group demonstrates their traditional singing and drumming. Link here.
  • Filmed November 15, 2016 at the Harvest Celebration with the Seeds of Renewal Project at the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington.

Link to the Facebook event page.

Project Revives Abenaki Crops, One Seed At A Time

fred wiseman abenaki crops VPR

Vermont Public Radio has given the Seeds of Renewal Project a nice bit of coverage recently:

“Almost a decade ago, Abenaki scholar and paleoethnobotanist Fred Wiseman started working with Abenaki communities as part of the documentation process for federal tribal recognition. While he was in these communities, Wiseman noticed crops that had long been thought to have disappeared growing on the hillsides. It led him to start the Seeds of Renewal Project.” [full story]

The Seven Sisters of Abenaki Indigenous Agriculture

vcgn calypso seven sisters copy

Building on the previously posted article, here’s a wonderful post on the blog of the Vermont Community Garden Network which digs deeper into the work of the Seeds of Renewal project. The author attended a workshop hosted by the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism during which they explored the fact that there are relationships with a large family of plants beyond the well-known Three Sisters.

Indigenous Wabanaki Harvest School To Be Held

abenaki agriculture

Short notice, but the Montpelier Bridge has listed notice (article here) of an all-day presentation about Wabanaki agriculture, with a special focus on celebrating a Native harvest feast. Hosted by The Center for Integrative Herbalism, it will be held tomorrow, November 7, 2015, beginning at 9 am. This builds on Dr. Fred Wiseman’s ongoing work with the Seeds of Renewal Project, researching and restoring the history and culture of Wabanaki food production, cycles, and ceremony.

Native Seeds – Preserving Heritage and Tradition through Heirloom Seeds

Another blog, Grow Your Own Groceries, talks with Fred Wiseman about his Seeds of Renewal project, a mission to rediscover and reinvigorate the Wabanaki agricultural heritage of northern New England. As of February 2015, Seeds of Renewal has located and preserved 24 authentic Abenaki heirlooms.