TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation will begin dispersing a limited supply of heirloom seeds on Feb. 24 to tribal citizens who are interested in growing traditional Cherokee crops.
“The Cherokee Nation seed bank is a vital link to our Cherokee homeland and helps us preserve pieces of our history and heritage,” Cherokee Nation Ethnobiology Manager Feather Smith said. “The seeds that will be offered are for chosen crops that represent a core part of Cherokee identity, and they are the same crops that Cherokee people have farmed for centuries. The Cherokee Nation seed bank and its distribution of heirloom seeds to tribal citizens are important both culturally and scientifically.”
The available seeds for 2023 include multiple types of Cherokee corn and gourds as well as seeds for beans, squash, pumpkins, Trail of Tears beads and tobacco.
There are also seeds available for 16 types of native plants, including American Basket Flower, Compass Plant, Cutleaf Coneflower (Cochanny), Green Dragon, Hearts-a-Burstin’, Jewelweed, New Jersey Tea, Passionflower, Possum Grape, Purple Coneflower, Rattlesnake Master, Sunchoke, Trumpet Vine, White Indigo, Wild Blue Indigo and Wild Senna.
“The preservation of these heirlooms is important, and those who receive the seeds should be mindful of the directions in the planting guide,” Cherokee Nation Environmental Resources Senior Director Pat Gwin said. “Any variance from these instructions could be a detriment to the plants’ genetic integrity. All of the native plants are local to the Cherokee Nation and would make an excellent addition to any garden or landscape.”
Starting on Feb. 24, seed packages can be requested online through the Gadugi Portal by visiting https://gadugiportal.cherokee.org.
The Cherokee Nation’s seed supply is limited on a first-come, first-serve basis. Recipients are limited to two varieties of seeds and only one variety of corn and gourds due to hybridization issues.
In 2022, the Cherokee Nation distributed more than 11,000 packages of traditional seeds.
All seeds have been produced locally by trained Cherokee Nation staff and are made available to citizens of the tribe for cultural uses. The seeds are not to be sold or offered for sale.