For many Native American tribes, vegetables like corn, beans, and squash are more than food. In fact, some are a priceless part of cultural traditions.
That’s why it’s so important to protect and preserve these crops, especially those at risk of extinction. But thanks to the teamwork of native farmers and the Jijak Foundation in Hopkins, Michigan, they’ll grow on for decades to come!
The Jijak Foundation is a nonprofit with a mission “to preserve, perpetuate, and share the rich history, culture, arts, and living traditions of the Gun Lake Band of Pottawatomi Indians as a valuable investment to strengthen [their] tribal community.”
They’re doing just that by giving the Pottawatomi and Ojibwe tribes what they need to save their at-risk crops.
How, you may ask? By lending out seeds from their library, a room filled with glass jars containing native varieties of plant seeds.
“Like a library, they check out seeds, and they will grow a certain variety of corn or beans or tobacco or squash,” said Kevin Finney, the executive director of the Jijak Foundation. “At the end of the year, they send us back a return on those seeds as well as keeping some.”
This system has worked so well that it has revived multiple plant species! For example, four years ago Kevin said they only had half a canning jar of white flower corn seeds left. Because of their growing efforts, they can now fill 100 bushels!
Even better, their work is helping native traditions continue! George Martin, the Ojibwe tribal leader, keeps up Pottawatomi tradition by making a special corn soup. The way he describes it, he shares a symbiotic relationship with the vegetables. He cares for them, and they nourish him.
What a beautiful way to honor nature and Native American cultures! If not for these wonderful people, we’re sure many of these crops wouldn’t be around today.
Learn more about the collaborative effort in the video below, and share this story to spread the word.
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