Indigenous Seed Keepers Network
White Earth Land Recovery Project

White Earth Land Recovery Project

About us

Here at the White Earth Land Recovery Project, we’ve gathered up all of our previously saved seeds and created a community seed library. Our seed library work doesn’t solely consist of storing the seeds themselves: we also collect stories, documenting the rich history that accompanies each variety.

We intend to solidify three White Earth Reservation Seed Library locations here on the White Earth Indian Reservation where community members can find seeds (Callaway, Naytahwaush, and White Earth Tribal and Community College). We have organized our seed jars with specific labels, shown in the chart below  to ensure that rare seeds are distributed to novice gardeners. This way, rare seeds will be grown out by experienced gardeners and first-time growers will be able to make plenty of mistakes. But no worries, as seed keepers know, we can always eat our mistakes!

This year in Callaway, we have added 6 raised beds for youth from the Callaway Boys and Girls Club. WELRP manages a school garden program that hires three garden managers, mothers of youth at three reservation schools: Pine Point, Circle of Life Academy, and Naytahwaush. We all attend seed saving events twice a year held at the White Earth Tribal and Community College. We work together with the College, tribe, health dept., nutrition educators, and Boys and Girls clubs to strengthen our food sovereignty work in White Earth.

We are also exploring indigenous seed storage systems and are interested in eventually building a structure that stores seeds underground while serving as an informational seed keeping community center on ground level. We are currently storing our seeds at our Callaway, MN location.

Seed Keeping

White Earth Land Recovery Project has a 10 acre working farm in Ponsford, MN. Here we grow out rare indigenous seeds, food for the White Earth Community and work on various research projects. We are involved with an organic potato research project led by Ruth Genger for the Dept. of Plant-Pathology University of Wisconsin-Madison. We are trialing and looking for exceptional potato varieties that grow well in organic conditions. See picture where we are mulching our potatoes with straw in our 2016 research plot. We are able to give away the potatoes at our Naytahwaush Harvest Pow Wow in Sept along with all of our tomatoes in our high tunnel (see right pic).

Bear Island Flint

We are concentrating efforts on this maize (Zea mays) variety that was documented to have been historically grown in the Leech Lake, MN area by native tribes. This multicolored flint corn grows well in our northern climate because it is hardy and has a short season. We use the corn to make a hardy hominy. 2016 is the third year that this corn has been grown for the project. We are selecting for earliness, large cob size and anything at or under 12 rows of kernels on the ear. Skinny ears dry down faster. In 2013 we received our seed stock from Tessah Gowens and the USDA GRIN. We grew over 2,000 plants in traditional mounds and selected about 200 ears for seed. In 2014, we grew out the same amount and selected approximately the same amount. We have identified another corn that works well in our region called Saskatchewan White Flint. This corn has an even shorter growing season than the Bear Island Flint. Bear Island Flint's growing season is approx. 75 days and the SWF is about 60 days long. The plants of BIF are about 4-5 feet high and the SWF plant only grow to about 3 feet tall.

White Earth Land Recovery Project

In 2014, we de-tasseled about 200 Saskatchewan White Flint plants that grew in with the Bear Island Flint (BIF) to add some fresh genetics into the BIF population because it is a very inbred population and needs fresh genetics in order to thrive. Here is a picture of a healthy F1 that consists of BIF and SWF genetics.

Now we have a selection program for the Bear Island Flint and the SWF/BIF populations separate from each other in order to keep the BIF seed pure. We do this by isolating those two types of corn when growing them out and making sure that they do not cross pollinate. In 2015, we grew the SWF/BIF cross in a BIF patch and de-tasseled them again. Now, the genetics of this new population cross for those seeds are 75% BIF and 25% SWF genetics. The reason that more BIF genetics is desirable is because we are selecting for a large ear size, and SWF ears are small. Yet we want a corn that has a short season, a trait the SWF has. In 2015, we also selected BIF ears for the same traits. In 2016, we planted a small patch of the BIF and a neighbor is growing another patch of the SWF/BIF cross. Let us know if you are interested in either the Bear Island Flint Seed or Saskatchewan White Flint Seed to grow as part of this breeding program until we have a healthy population of both. We ask you grow the seed at least one mile away from any GMO corn fields. We would send either the pure BIF seed or the BIF/SWF population cross in an amount over 200 seeds. Select large healthy ears that have 12 rows or less that mature first coming from healthy plants.


Location: 607 Main Ave. Callaway, MN 56521

Phone: 218-375-2600