Preserving the Environment

When Tradition Can Help Save the Environment

February 6, 2015
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When Tradition Can Help Save the Environment
Representatives from Native Harvest, part of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, represent wild rice at the Terra Madre food conference in Torino, Italy. White Earth Land Recovery Project/Facebook
Native American tribes are returning to ancestral agricultural practices.

Despite generations of sustainable farming, Native American tribes have been losing touch with these practices because of health problems and a lack of knowledge concerning ancestral farming. However, some groups, including the ones below, are seeing this as an opportunity for renewal.

Traditional Native American Farmers’ Association
After noticing the move away from traditional farming in his community, Clayton Brascoupé started TNAFA back in 1992 in Santa Fe, N.M. Today, it includes more than one dozen tribes. Education is fundamental to the organization, which is why it offers workshops in seed-saving, home gardening, traditional food production, crop marketing, sustainable design and more.

White Earth Land Recovery Project
The group’s original mission was to resolve the land rights struggles of the Anishinaabes people of White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota. However, in the subsequent years, it has grown to encompass a wide range of issues, including agriculture, for the Anishinaabes as well as other tribes. White Earth produces its own food line under the Native Harvest label, as well as hosting conferences regarding indigenous farming. The group also has an impressive seed library, which not only includes collected ones, but it has also rediscovered forgotten strains. After finding squash seeds in an 800-year-old pot, the group was able to grow 50 seeds of Gete-okosomin (“really old cool squash”), according to Sustainable Cities Collective.

San Ildefonso Pueblo Community Farm Program
Anyone who is familiar with the Pueblo‘s current eight acres (comprised of numerous families’ fields) would probably be surprised to learn of its humble beginnings as a small plot in Tribal Councilman Tim Martinez’s backyard in 2010. With crops ranging from traditional varieties of corn, beans and squash to onions, lettuce, carrots, okra and more, the Pueblo is very diverse. Its emphasis, though, is truly on the community. A community-built hoop house keeps crops growing longer, and the produce is sold at local farmers’ markets to members of the neighboring communities. Integral to the Pueblo are the lessons — including watching moon cycles and migration patterns to gauge planting and harvesting times to preparing and tending crops — taught by elders to youths.

To learn about more Native American groups, click here.

MORE: Is It Possible to Grow Something on Every Rooftop?
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