Support the COVID-19 Indigenous Seed Crisis Response Circle
Since the creation stories of this continent to the genocidal colonial policies and practices that persist today, Indigenous-to-North-America communities have been singing to, praying for, dancing with, and co-cultivating the seeds they belong to as an act of relational governance and intergenerational love. This good work – in defiance of industrial agriculture, seed commodification, and biocolonialism – is heart’s work, and is chronically targeted and under-resourced within dominating systems of racial injustice and displacement denying accountability to Indigenous peoples and the food agreements that are their sacred inheritance.
COVID-19 has exacerbated the pre-existing food insecurities and injustices in Indigenous communities that are resultant of these systems. Indigenous seed keepers and earth workers have been experiencing an increase in Indigenous seed need and an increase in interest across their communities in gardening, seed keeping, and ancestrally-informed food processing and preservation practices. This swelling passion for food sovereignty is exciting, but it has also meant that the demand for seed is higher than Indigenous seed keepers’ seed supply, putting communities' already precarious seed stocks at risk. Many Indigenous seed keepers have been faced with the decision to gift seed for food at the risk of losing an ancestral variety. Throughout these precarious times, many COVID-19 funding solutions have been implemented without Indigenous communities’ collaboration and consent, leading to ineffective response efforts and deepened harms.
Communities impacted by such factors as racism, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, colonialism, and ableism know best the solutions and pathways for healthier, just realities for their people. This is certainly the case Indigenous people in so-called Canada, who have long been calling for justice, unobstructed pursuits of inherent sovereignty, and land back, and who have been innovatively caring for their seed relations against all odds.
In response to the preexisting food insecurities intensified by COVID-19, Sovereign Seeds is facilitating the COVID-19 Indigenous Seed Crisis Response Circle, an Indigenous seed stewardship collective operating with a commitment to nurture Indigenous seed varieties for improved seed health and access through and beyond this pandemic. Through this collaboratively-governed seed network, dedicated Indigenous seed leaders have come together to grow Indigenous seed varieties in the 2020 and 2021 growing seasons to increase Indigenous seed supply. Seeds generated through the Circle will be lovingly redistributed to Indigenous individuals and initiatives in their communities requiring access to their ancestral seeds for food and seed saving. Indigenous seed keepers and initiatives comprising this collaborative seed collective span across what is colonially known as Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick, and include Blackbird Medicines, Igataqan, Ininīwikistayikēwin, Kenhte:ke Seed Sanctuary and Learning Centre (KSSLC), Kete Miinakaan Kitigaanens, Mtigwaaking, and Stephen Silverbear McComber of Kahnawake Collective Impact’s Three Sisters Mound Garden initiative. This project is inspired by a project recently initiated by Sovereign Seeds’ partner network, the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network (ISKN), who are developing an Indigenous-led Indigenous Seed Growers Cooperative south of the border across the Upper Midwest.
While Indigenous people continue to navigate the deliberately disproportionate impacts of colonialism, environmental racism, climate change, and occupation, seeds are, as they have always been, a living and sacred relationship of celebratory resilience and joy. Through this project, Circle members are not only strengthening communities’ and seeds’ preparedness for pandemics and climate change, they are also keeping alive ancestral seed economies of community reciprocity and care, asserting Indigenous sovereignty, and (re)claiming the ancestral food relationships they belong to.
Your donation to the Circle will go directly towards supporting these seed leaders and the people and communities who will receive the seeds they are cultivating. By supporting the COVID-19 Indigenous Seed Crisis Response Circle, you are supporting a current collective of brilliant seed leaders, as well as a more just and resilient future for the generations of seeds and seed keepers to come.
Other Ways to Support
Land access is a significant barrier to seed stewardship for those Indigenous to territories within the colonial borders of Canada. If you, your business, or your organization have land "ownership", pursue a land transfer of property to Indigenous communities and initiatives through land trusts and other consensual, justice-driven arrangements. Return/redistribute wealth to land back efforts by funding Indigenous-led land trust fundraisers. Food justice must also include land access for other BIPOC communities, particularly for Black communities and BIPOC migrant earth workers impacted by the historical and ongoing harms of racial violence, slavery, and exploitive agricultural labour. Donate to and/or fundraise for BIPOC farming and seed keeping initiatives.
See Resource Generation's Land Reparations and Indigenous Solidarity Toolkit (US context), a TVO feature on a private land transfer case with Alderville First Nation, and Yellowhead Institute's Land Back report.
Indigenous peoples' seeds and seed cultures have and continue to be stolen, displaced, and commodified without communities' consent. Ancestral seeds and seed items find themselves in settlers' public or private collections, seed companies, seed banks/vaults and seed libraries, museum archives, and universities. A seed rematriation movement is underway to return communities' sacred seeds and seed items. If you or your organization/institution have or believe you may have Indigenous seed varieties and/or seed harvesting, storage, and processing material items, please connect with us to assist with an assessment and to facilitate the return of these sacred relationships to the communit(ies)/ nation(s) they belong to.
See Rowen White's blog post on seed rematriation, Modern Farmer's feature on the Native American Seed Sanctuary seed rematriation project, and County & Quinte Living's feature on Kenhte:ke Seed Sanctuary and Learning Centre's rematriation story.