Food Sovereignty Committee plants heritage seeds at University of Michigan

Representatives from the Pokagon Band, Grand Traverse Band, Gun Lake Tribe, Lac Courte Oreilles, Little Traverse Bay Band, Saginaw Chippewa & Walpole Island, planted a heritage seed garden with students, faculty and staff at the University of Michigan.

Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Jason S. Wesaw was one of the Pokagon citizens there. Before this planting in May, a few Pokagon representatives visited the University in 2017.

“We went there by invitation from the University with other Great Lakes tribes who were aware of some of the holdings in the collections and how they actually came from our communities,” Jason said.

Pokagon representatives went out of interest, to see the work the other Great Lakes tribes and the University had done, according to Jason. The group toured the University’s Matthaei Gardens, where the University houses their ethnobotanical collection and seed collection. Our representatives felt welcomed, and Jason said being in the presence of the heritage seeds was very powerful.

“We smudged with them, we sang to them, we prayed for them,” Jason said. “And we told them that there will come a day when we can return and bring them home. Not just home to our community but home to the ground…so that they can provide that life.”

This May, our tribe and the other Great Lakes tribes, as well as First Nations people from Canada, returned, some with seeds to gift to the gardens. They planted the seeds there and feasted after. Citizens Gary and Christine Morseau offered old corn seeds from our community to the University of Michigan, so our tribe could also offer seeds to the project.

“What that’s leading into, is in 2019, for some of those seeds to start returning back home from the collections…to their home communities,” Jason said.

Our tribe, with the other Great Lakes tribes, will continue to work with the University to identify Potawatomi seeds and seeds that may have come from the St. Joseph River valley, so the seeds may later be returned to our Native communities.


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