TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation will begin dispersing its limited supply of heirloom seeds on Feb. 7 to tribal citizens who are interested in growing traditional Cherokee crops. In 2021, the Cherokee Nation distributed over 6,800 packages of seeds to tribal citizens.
“The Cherokee Nation seed bank is continuing to grow every year and is a vital link to keeping the Cherokee Nation connected to our homeland while preserving our history and heritage,” Cherokee Nation Ethnobiology Manager Feather Smith said. “Cherokee White Eagle Corn, various Cherokee beans, as well as three other varieties of corn are just some of the seeds citizens can order on Feb. 7. They are all chosen crops that represent a core part of Cherokee identity. They are the same crops that Cherokee people have farmed for hundreds of years and are important both culturally and scientifically.”
Cherokee Nation citizens are limited to two varieties of seeds, and each applicant must either confirm their citizenship via the established website or submit a copy of their Cherokee citizenship card, proof of age and address.
Among this year’s available heirloom seeds are Cherokee Tan Pumpkin, Cherokee White Eagle Corn, Trail of Tears Beans, a variety of gourds, Indian corn beads and native plants such as the Rattlesnake Master, Wild Senna and Possum Grape.
“The heirloom seeds available in our seed bank are varieties that the Cherokee people harvested long before European contact,” Senior Director of Cherokee Nation Environmental Resources Pat Gwin said. “For Cherokee citizens who are looking to make a cultural connection to our history, planting and sustaining these crops is a great way to do so. It is important to preserve the rare genetics of these heirlooms. These are the crops of our ancestors, and if grown correctly, the harvest will exhibit qualities and traits not found in modern varieties. So, if you receive seeds, please be mindful of the directions in the planting guide. Any variance from these instructions could result in hybridization and loss of the plants’ genetic integrity.”
This year, the Cherokee Nation Seed Bank program will take orders online or by phone.
Citizens can submit order requests online by visiting https://secure.cherokee.org/seedbank. Create an account and follow the instructions to see a complete list of available seeds and to place and track orders. Previous participants of the tribe’s seed bank program can also use this link to log in and update their shipping address before submitting orders.
To submit an order request by phone, citizens can call 918-453-5336.