Mission of The Alliance of Native SeedKeepers
Rebuild and maintain our food diversity and their stories; uses and traditions.
For thousands of years, our ancestors developed and maintained unimaginable amounts of life sustainers which helped them develop entire nations and cultures. For many of our agriculture societies, almost our entire ceremonial calendars revolve around our seeds. The way we dance replicates the bean climbing the stock of corn and the songs we sing give thanks and entertains our seeds spirits.
We saw many undesirable changes by the point of contact. Forced removal and assimilation caused us to lose many of our unique crops and much of the culture that goes with them. Although there are many programs now focused on protecting those sustainers of life, too few come from the perspective of an indigenous people.
For us, seed keeping is story keeping, medicine keeping, history keeping, migration origin keeping, astronomy keeping, water, soil, and air keeping, ceremony keeping, song keeping, spiritual keeping, sovereignty keeping, life keeping, and 7th generation keeping. In order to see to the keeping of all these things, we've implemented the following programs.
Native Seed Exchange:
Our Native Seed Exchange (currently under development) is designed to bring our traditional seed swaps into the 21st century. Unlike other exchange programs, our program is focused on indigenous people, communities, and seeds, offering free or discounted memberships to Native American people. Educational programs through the exchange will help guide people in how to grow and protect our seeds and how to prevent the spread of diseases.
Native Seed Sanctuaries:
Our central Native Seed Sanctuaries are designed to offer secure and long term storage of thousands of indigenous seeds. With these banks, Participating native communities and individuals will be able to withdrawal and deposit seeds confident that they will receive proper care and protection. The Native Seed Sanctuaries act as a hub in our network between our nations and communities to help keep our various seed keepers connected and informed.
Tribal Seed Libraries:
AoNSK works with tribal communities in the development of their Tribal-CSAs and libraries. These libraries act as short term banks where members from those respective tribes are able to "check out" seed samples and return some each season. This allows our seeds to be constantly grown, allowing them to be well adapted to our changing climate. If any seed in our banks or libraries are compromised, we are able to pull together samples from within our network to insure the survival of those sustainers.
Seed Grow out Farms and Seed Stewardship:
Seed Stewardship and Grow Out Farms are in most cases reserved for experienced Indigenous seed stewards and communities. This is where we send some of our most endangered seeds to be grown out into sustainable numbers. At these locations, we understand that these seeds will be tended to with the best experience and confidence our people can offer. The seed Stewardship also provides a source of income for Indigenous people by allowing them first opportunity to grow seeds for our seed store which is also used to fund our projects.
Seed Acquisition Team:
It's not enough to just go to a seed swap and choose the most interesting looking seed. Our teams make it a priority to learn the seeds origins, stories, and purpose and make sure such seeds are acquired fairly, and respectfully. The teams then locate and contact the people the seeds originate from and extend our services to their community.
Encourage healthier, traditional diets by making supply and knowledge more accessible.
Food insecurity impacts hundreds of native communities across the United States. Largely due to poverty, Native American families are 400% more likely to report food insecurity. As a result, native families are forced to buy cheap processed foods or supplement their diets with U.S.D.A. commodities which then helps lead Native Americans in as the highest demographic to suffer from type 2 diabetes, diabetic related deaths, kidney failure, and obesity. To combat food insecurity and its related health issues, AoNSK has implemented the following programs.
Food Bank Collaborations:
Alliance of Native SeedKeepers works with tribal food banks to combat food insecurity by planting and then donating extra produce. This program is funded by seed and produce sales, as well as donations from our customers.
Adopt a Plot, Feed a Family:
Adopt a Plot, Feed a Family program is a program directly under our affiliated Tribal-CSAs. Tribal communities may request to sponsor a family for the program and with donations through AoNSK and through their own community, we buy a "share" in a garden that guarantees fresh produce throughout the season for a family in need.
Cooking and Harvesting Classes:
Having access to healthy food is only half the battle. Knowing how to select foods from the wild and the garden as well as store and prepare them is just as important. AoNSK provides written educational material as well as host classes for tribal communities.
Tribal Farmers Markets:
AoNSK sponsors Tribal Farmers Markets to assist in giving affordable and healthy foods to native families. Part of the proceeds are used to fund projects that feeds families.
Tribal Garden Development:
AoNSK assist in the development of community gardens and T-CSAs (Tribal Community Supported Agriculture) for tribal communities. These gardens help provide for our endangered seeds, as well as support food security within the tribal community. For the most part, these gardens are funded by tribal members who buy "shares" in a garden in exchange for produce grown onsite throughout the year. Other funding is provided by donations through AoNSK and grants.
AoNSK offers seed stewardship programs to native individuals. Seeds are provided by AoNSK to be grown by the person, in return additional seed is returned to the alliance which will then be sold in our stores. The seed steward is paid for the seed returned while being able to keep any additional seed and produce.