“None of us are free of the grief of disconnection to place, to storied food, and to the land.”
Earlier this week, I got to attend the premiere of the documentary Seeds of Hope. It’s about a unique partnership between a local seed company- Hudson Valley Seed Company, a local farm- Hudson Valley Farm Hub & the Mohawk tribe. Once indigenous to this very area, they’ve been pushed into a 6 mile x 6 mile patch of land near the Canadian border where their traditional varieties of corn, beans and squash simply don’t grow as well. The film was a powerful & emotional story of healing and reconciliation as some of these varieties were saved from the brink of extinction. The Mohawk Red corn featured in the photograph was down to TWO existing ears- in the world. The Mohawk trusted their sacred seeds to farmers and growers at the Farm Hub and HV Seed Co, and the Native American Seed Sanctuary was born. Last season, over 800 POUNDS of Mohawk Red corn was grown here, ensuring the future of this traditional variety and providing a traditional food for the Mohawk to use for in cultural preservation & ceremony.
There was an incredible turn out for the film and following the screening, there was a Q&A with one of the farmers and some folks from the Mohawk tribe in Akwesasne. Something very powerful & intimate happened in that room. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room as one of the elders spoke about his distrust & suspicion of white people being healed (to a degree) by the respect our local farmers showed for not only their sacred seeds- but the songs and stories that are entwined with them. We all cried together for ancestors that hurt each other and were hurt by each other, but you could also feel the silent agreement that was made to forgive and heal- not just in our relationships with other humans- but with the plants and the earth as well. The Original Agreement was between ALL humans with the rest of Creation.
Rowan White of the Indigenous Seedkeepers Network shared a moving story of driving through Nebraska one spring and looking out on miles of fields of sprouting corn plants. An indigenous woman, she was filled with hope & joy to see the baby plants of the Corn Mother and began to sing the corn & seed songs. Then she remembered these were Monsanto corn plants and felt the futility of singing to these disconnected corn plants. It was then that she realized what her grandmother meant when she said that Corn was a reflection of the People: when Corn flourished, they flourished. But the fields of Monsanto corn also represent the state of the people: disconnected from their place in the Nature. We're all suffering this feeling of disconnection from the land, from a sense of place. We try to fill the void with material things, excessive busyness or thousands of social media followers, but just like that GMO corn; that life is heavy on calories, but light on actual nutrients- substance.
In my practice, I work with a lot of people who are working to eat better. They struggle with their weight and making time to prepare and eat whole foods. I wonder how many of them are actually struggling with this disconnection to place & storied food and are overeating or feel enslaved by cravings to junk food because what they are really craving is belonging & connection. It's not that far-fetched an idea when you consider 'comfort food' and how many of us have deep emotional memories tied to certain foods- Grandma's fruit cake recipe, a beloved aunt's signature cookies. We often cook for people as a sign of love and care, bring them food in times of need. Why wouldn't food also be able to give us a sense of place, ground us and connect us with nature? Isn't eating after all, an intimate act of taking plants and animals into our own bodies and making their bodies a part of ours? If we all incorporated more native, wild and local foods into our diet would it begin to erase our cultural amnesia about where we come from and helps us reconcile with our Mother, Earth?