Imagine the 'date packed' on your seed packet is 800 years ago...

Fergus and the 800 year old squash


Fergus Drennan, forager extraordinaire, alerted us to us to the story behind his thriving squash plant:

As the story goes, some six years ago, during an archeological dig on the Menomonie Reservation, a clay ball was unearthed. It was clear that there was something inside of this clay ball and, when opened, what was found were squash seeds, carbon dated to 800 years old. Some of these seeds were planted and they grew and bore fruit. Each of these large squash produce as many as 600 seeds. These seeds have been shared and grown throughout the indigenous community and news of their existence is filtering beyond tribal borders. Winona LaDuke, an enrolled member of the White Earth Tribe and a well-known activist, writer and environmentalist was given some of the seed and people kept asking her what its name was. She eventually opted to give it a name: gete-okosomin which means “really cool old squash” in Ojibwemowin.


From the White Earth Land Recovery Project -

We grew our oldest of relatives: an 800 year-old squash which originated in an archeological dig. We grew fifty of them, or so, and now have seeds to share with our Native communities across the North Country. The squash seeds survived for 800 years in a clay pot, and now the squash is served to our elders, to our children, and used for our ceremonies.  

We are tremendously proud of our work. Visit the Anishinaabe Seed Library and listen to the 15 minute long Niijii Radio show Seed of the Week which includes an episode of the “Cool Old Squash.” Keepers of the seeds… A set of federal policies—including land alienation—in both Canada and the United States has caused the loss of our traditional seeds and foods. These laws limited our ability to sell our crops to non-Indians living in Manitoba and denied us access to federal loan guarantees under the USDA, for example.

We are currently developing an indigenous northern seed network called theGreat Lakes Indigenous Restoration Network to encourage the restoration of rare native cultivated seeds.  Great Lakes Indigenous Restoration Network Working together with experienced Indigenous seedkeepers, we’ve begun laying the foundations for an active, participatory, regional seed network. We’ve helped to assemble a group of collaborators that includes the following organizations: Dream of Wild Health, United Tribes Technical College, the Science Museum of Minnesota, Lac Courte Oreilles Community College, Canadian Mennonite University Farm, Shakopee Farm, the Intertribal Agriculture Council as well as passionate, knowledgable seed saver individuals. In addition, several of our partners have leveraged significant grant funding to support the project.

The White Earth Tribal and Community College recently secured a USDA Tribal Colleges Research Grant for preserving at-risk Indigenous crops through sound breeding practices, a goal that comprises an integral part of our overall vision.  We will create an online blog so all of these seed champions of their communities can list and share their seeds and seed stories.  White Earth Seed Library Here at the White Earth Land Recovery Project, we’ve gathered up all of our previously saved seeds and created a community seed library. Currently, we’re identifying additional seed sources—in our region and beyond—along with farmers, gardeners, and other allies from our community—who have an interest in assisting us in the restoration of Native seed varieties.

Our seed library work doesn’t solely consist of storing the seeds themselves: we also collect stories, documenting the rich history that accompanies each variety. The White Earth Seed Library comprises just one branch of the Great Lakes Indigenous Seed Library. We intend to solidify three White Earth Seed Library locations here on the White Earth Indian Reservation (Callaway, Naytahwaush, and White Earth Tribal and Technical College). We are currently storing seeds in our refrigerator in the 607 Main Ave. Callaway, MN location. We are exploring indigenous seed storage systems and hosting clay seed vessel workshops this summer 2014! Visit our Seed Library Website and check out our seed varieties; Anishinaabe Seed Library and email if you would like to get more involved

Please click here to visit our new Anishinaabe Seed Library. With your support, we protect our sacred seeds.