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Dragonfly Tales
April 4 2014

By Colette Wolf, United Tribes Extension Agroecology Educator

How Little Seed Grew to be a Plant

           Little Seed looked around the tiny one-room home. Mother Seed was busy organizing birch bark scrolls that were etched with the family history. Little Seed bemoaned, “Mother Seed, will we ever have a bigger place to live?” Mother Seed responded gently, “Possibly, but it’ll take the spirits of water, air, earth and fire to decide.” Zachary Paige  

           Suddenly, their home shook. Little Seed looked out the window. Thunderbeings were dancing with light in the sky. Then, rain came pouring down. Mother Seed joined Little Seed by the window, holding her hand with knowing in her heart. “Little Seed, we need to prepare,” Mother Seed expressed with joy. “Our little house is going to break open. When it does, I’ll take the ladder into the earth. You take the ladder into the sky. This way we’ll anchor our home and keep it safe.”

           Together, they delighted in packing a traveling basket with nourishing cornballs, tobacco for prayers and the birch bark scrolls. Just as they finished, the shell of their home cracked, letting in light and rain. This was the signal they needed, each stepping onto their ladders, each beginning their journey.

           Mother Seed followed the ladder deep into the earth, while Little Seed headed for the sky; continuing down and up until their home was safely anchored. Little Seed heard Mother Seed call and quickly climbed down the ladder. The old home was gone, but the new one stretched high into the sky and deep into the earth. “Little Seed,” Mother Seed whispered, “This home will only last while the Thunderbeings dance in the sky. One day, the snow dogs will shake themselves and cover the earth with whiteness. Then, we’ll return to a small, hard shelled winter home. This is why we pray with tobacco to the spirits of water, air, earth and fire. We ask to keep the cycle going according to the history of our ancestors.” Little Seed beamed with excitement. At last they had become a plant.

Seed-Saving Workshop

           In my hand, I hold a corn seed; a little seed that magically carries the family history and family journeys of each season’s corn plant. This tiny, quiet vessel protects the miracle of life that sprouts forth when conditions are right. To this day, over 70 percent of the world is fed by indigenous farmers who continue to save their seed. In a two-day workshop, hosted by the UTTC Land Grant Extension Programs and funded by USDA/NIFA, we learned many benefits about saving seed. First, saving seed provides free seed. One big squash alone can provide seed by the hundreds; seed to keep and seed to share. Second, we encourage bio-diversity when seed is shared then grown in new locations. Bio-diversity promotes plant resilience to disease and insects and increases adaptability to climate change.


           The seed-saving workshop lead by Zachary Paige, AmeriCorps Vista Volunteer from the White Earth Land Recovery Project in Mahnomen, MN, covered a host of topics from basic plant science, plant breeding, seed harvesting and seed storage. Zach described methods for creating a local seed library which is often stored in a public library. This enables a community to save and share seeds systematically. As a community member, you can check-out small quantities of seed, grow them in your garden, harvest new seed and return the amount you originally checked-out. Seed libraries promote public seed sharing versus privatization of seed. We can also save seed in our homes or become members of larger seed saving organizations like Seed Savers Exchange. Many of our local tribal communities have Seed Keepers who continue to store and protect community seed while preserving cultural protocol in sharing seed.

Preventing Loss of Diversity

           When we choose to grow backyard gardens, save seed and plant from our own harvest, we protect plant diversity and our freedom to choose what we grow and eat. Today, very few westernized farmers and families save seed. Combine this with centralizing food production and we may have the reason for a 75 percent loss of seed diversity worldwide. Losing seed diversity means many plants and many combinations of plant traits have been lost forever.

Miracle of Life

Little Corn Seed rests in my hand. The small being inside might be invisible to my eye, yet every day, the miracle of life sprouts forth from seed, a billion times over across Mother Earth. Choosing to grow food, save seed and participate in seed sharing enables us to assist many ‘Little Seeds’ to dance with the Thunderbeings and sustain a verdant Mother Earth.

Workshop participants


Learn More/Get Involved

           For more about seed-saving and future Land Grant Extension Programs, please contact Colette Wolf, Extension Agroecology Educator, cwolf@uttc.edu, 701-255-3285 x 1426.

Learn more about the importance of seed-saving and seed sovereignty by viewing the video “Seeds of Freedom” at this link http://vimeo.com/43879272

UTN photos by Colette Wolf, Robert Fox and Dennis Neumann

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