Written by: Denise Kasprzak, SDI student worker
The 2016 Intertribal Nursery Council meeting was the utmost informative place I have experienced. This was a good learning experience for me to acquire more knowledge about our environment and how other tribes and universities are handling their native plants, as well as the non-native plants.
On October 12, 2016, Becky Edler and I presented Saving our Seeds project to our Nursery Council members. We introduced ourselves, and the Sustainable Development Institute of College of Menominee Nation, and showed the power point that we had presented earlier this year. We shared our experience with collecting and saving our traditional seeds, taking trips out in the forest and along the back grounds of the college on the phenology trail. After taking pictures of plants, seeds and the habitats, we did research on each seed collected to get as much information on them as possible. We have 104 seeds labeled and stored now. Some were given the Menominee name and the English translation from the person who had picked these seeds on their own personal time. We had taken pictures of the seeds to show what they look like some in their habitat along with the foliage, and some with the fruits it produces during the growing season.
After completing these steps we labeled and put each of the seeds into dry, safe containers that are kept in a vault located at the S. Verna Fowler Library at the College of Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wisconsin. This is where our “Saving our Seeds” bank will be. We are still in the process of completing this project and need to identify a coding system; at this point we still have more seeds to research, more data and stories to collect. Someday we hope to gather knowledge of medicinal plants and uses too. We believe that saving our traditional seeds is a good resource to help keep our culture strong for our future generations.
During our meeting we were able to listen to many other participants explain how they use and how to manage their plants. We heard of ways to conquer invasive species, how to keep plants strong and healthy, and how to maintain a safer environment for traditional plants and non-native plants. We toured the Seneca land visiting two restoration sites in Erie County. One was Clear Creek restoration site; this was a shallow creek where some damage is a possibility, but if precautions are taken this will be a good historical place located on Seneca Nation Territory.
The other is where we had a traditional dinner, the tribal Administration Building. The Seneca traditional dinner consists mainly of a corn base. Corn is a major food compound. We had corn soup, corn mush, corn frybread, corn bread, turkey, sweet potatoes, and an awesome strawberry homemade drink made with honey. Close by was a building open for public use-the gym- filled with corn husks. These were to be shucked and then braided to certain lengths and left to dry. We helped and had fun learning which ones are good to use, and which are not.
In another room, some females sat and were making dolls from the fibers of the corn silk. It was nice to see how they use their products in more ways than one and amuse themselves as they sit and work. We had a chance to meet members of a jazz band who were also Seneca tribal members, a member from the Nursery group played the saxophone. Lastly, on the day of departure, we had a chance to see the Niagara Falls . A beautiful and amazing God’s gift to the world!
I found out that the Seneca Tribe has come up with a new planting policy with hopes of reintroducing native species to their Seneca territories. The Seneca Nation of Indians has done a tremendous amount of landscaping with their indigenous native plants to their public buildings. By doing so, this will help restore, preserve local indigenous plants that are significant to the culture of the Seneca people and maintain the balance of nature. This has given me new insight as to how the Menominee Nation can do the same to restore our ecosystem and not cause a threat to our environment. By sharing and listening to other universities, tribes, and forestry services on how they work with their environment we gained much insight as to how we can do the same with our native and non-native plants and trees for a more effective and beautiful ecosystem.