Winona LaDuke: Indian farmers preserve traditional seeds
Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2011
"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?""
Get the Story:
Winona LaDuke: Keepers of the seeds
(Straight Goods 5/18)
Join the Conversation