By Erica Paige Schumacher
Long before James Lovelock published the controversial but prescient Gaia Hypothesis, the native Americans were culturally aligned with nature and its being. They sung to seeds and let them “sleep” in the wintertime, they honored their lands and their ancestors, and they planted and nourished the seeds with a great spirit of recognition looking toward the future. The seeds, in turn, nourished the land, the animals, indigenous farmers young and old—and the people.
When people think about this idea of the earth, the land, and its biosphere as a sacred and mammoth pact with existence, one often thinks of beekeepers, farmers, biologists, gardeners, outdoor enthusiasts, or shamans, but most individuals raised in natural environments also learn to respect nature as a source of inspiration, cosmic design, and deep wisdom. Artists, writers, children, musicians, contemplatives, and philosophers have been inspired by nature and the earth throughout the ages, singing us the Earth’s songs. And there are many meaningful reasons to carry these songs on, into the future.
There are many ways to honor Gaia (Mother Earth) in individually and collectively. Some would say when we separate ourselves from nature through philosophy, or our actions on the planet, we lose our spiritual compass and our exquisite balance in the cosmos. One need only have awareness and love to observe the effects of these imbalances on wildlife, birds, bees, and people. And some might say that most of our modern problems spring from this disconnect from Mother Earth, its biosphere and being—and thus the Universe itself.
For Native Americans and other indigenous tribes, the duality of imagining ourselves as “separate” from the earth has not only been a dangerous illusion, it has caused many ruptures and traumas for the earth’s original peoples, animals, spirits, wildlife (guides), ancestors, and for all of modern humanity.
To heal that trauma, one must go back to one’s origins, and respect Mother Earth as a living organism, be in balance with its balance, and have the humility to observe the sacred ways of returning home, without ever actually leaving it. Some people do this noble work through their gardens or through community actions; others camp or hike until their energy, thought and awareness shifts, bringing that back home and to “the world.” And some, quietly or in song, plant seeds that honor Mother Earth’s original intentions of potential, creation, growth, compassion, and the sharing of abundance through food or other necessities.
One way the continuity and spirit of the “sacred feminine” has been honored is through a collaborative project between the Akwesasne Mohawk tribe, The Seedshed and The Hudson Valley Farm Hub. In Hurley, at the Farm Hub, Native (Akwesasne) elders, guides, and young people have been planting heritage seeds and ancient grains that sprout into bountiful color in Autumn after making a long journey of sleep through the diurnal winter months. The seeds “come into being” after being protected, loved, coaxed, honored and sung to by the Hudson Valley’s Original Peoples, both young and mature. One can see these “plant beings” grow into the bounty of food as a result of the care and consciousness they have been endowed with by Mother Nature herself potentially, in seed, and then take root in the primal soil of the earth coming up as squash, corn, sunflowers, and beans. To see more of this exquisite project on film by Director Jon Bowermaster and Oceans 8 Films in alliance with The Native American Seed Sanctuary and The Seedshed visit: hvfarmhub.org/about/seed-sanctuary.
The planting and preservation of heritage seeds by Akwesasne and other mature cultures across the globe is an effort to “rematriate seeds.” Rematriation honors the beauty of the earth and home as “mother”, who is not here to be conquered as a technical commodity, but is respected as our planetary home with a deep, living spirit, vibrant lands, and a biosphere that supports its existence, and ours. It is a spirit to honor and be stewards of for millennia, just as the earth has honored, cared and sheltered us, all animals, and living creatures.
The Seed Sanctuary at the Farm Hub is a collaborative project with Seedshed and the Akwesasne/Mohawk tribe of northern New York State. As a result of this project, Native American varieties of corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers for rematriation of seeds are planted for the tribe, youth and cultural programs at Akwesasne. For more information on this project, the harvest, or the film, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many Seed Keepers across the globe in a variety of native and ancient cultures who are aligned in their approach to preserving the Earth’s natural balance. According to Bernedette Muthien, a pan-African poet who has written on the concept of Rematriation and the sacred feminine the qualities of love, compassion, and respect are the rightful unifying forces of the Cosmos, and these things are best taught and learned by The Great Mother (Earth).
Those involved with this movement (the Rematriation of Seeds) share their concerns about farmers, natural ways of eating and sharing food, fair trade, ancient tribal practices, cultural preservation of the past and the future, and the condition of The Earth, itself. Seed Keepers exist in Africa, in Latin America, in Native Cultures across the planet, in India, across the United States, and here in the Hudson Valley.
What they have in common are a few vital principles:
1. We are all connected to the Earth
2. We are all human.
3. Human and animal beings are sacred, as is the Earth and the Biosphere—these are inseparable, and if we forget these sacred things, we forget life itself, purpose, and a meaningful existence.
4. Distribution of food is what the Earth designed to meet the needs of its human and animal families
5. An emphasis on democratic principles of freedom and sharing
6. A holistic view of our world by co-creating with Nature’s Intelligence
7. The awareness that local abundance is directly related to our interconnectedness with Earth, with each other, and to reduce or eliminate exploitation.
Rematriation is a whole philosophy and way of life in which the ‘ways of knowing’ are based on balancing female spiritual qualities that may have been overlooked, overtaken, or neglected through years of of domination and vying for resources. As a counter-balancing movement, Rematriation is about non-hierarchy, collaboration, gratitude, co-existence, honoring ancestors, and mother earth. It is about harmonizing and balancing the important male and female qualities into a state of co-existence on the planet, recognizing both energies as important for creation and sustenance ~ realizing that we are interconnected with the earth in all ways, and particularly through the planting of crops and the growing of healthy and sustainable food locally.
Seed Keepers promote the health and survival of the sacred web of life presently and for the future generations. The Akwesasne and other tribes are working on developing sustainable economic alternatives that preserve their culture, work towards peace in the natural world and surrounding communities, and make decisions that ensure that future generations will not be adversely affected by environmental and societal decisions today.
–From the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force website. http://www.hetf.org/
For more information on Rematriation, and the honoring of the sacred feminine on Earth through seed sharing, planting fields in Hurley and in other locales, contact The Seedshed.
“We have a responsibility to act as caretakers of the Natural World.” –Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force
“Seed Keepers are the most generous, kind humans that I know…I think that’s because they hang out with the seeds so much that it kind of wears off on them.” –Rowen White, Akwesasne Mohawk representative, speaking at the Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit (2016)
Photo: Pacha Mama & Susan Deer Cloud near the entrance to Calilegua National Park, Argentina. The pueblo where the statue stands is Libertador General San Martín. Photo by John Gunther.