In 2008, an archaeological team uncovered a clay jar buried on a Menominee reservation near Green Bay, Wisconsin. Inside, they found that it contained seeds. Now, a group of students have brought the plants back to life.
The seeds were carbon dated and found to be 850 years old, and were for a type of squash that had been presumed lost. The seeds, named Gete-okosomin (Anishinaabe for ‘really cool old squash’), were taken and distributed to several growers on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe reservation. In 2014, they planted several of the seeds, and found that they grew to enormous porportions:
“(Last year) I planted four seeds,” [Sue Menzel] said. “By July the vines were more than 8m long. … By the time we were done we had two dozen (squash). The largest was 1m long, 8kg.”
Seeds from that crop (now in its fifth generation) have been provided to the American Indian Center, which yielded new vegetables for their annual Giving Thanks Feast and Powwow last week in Chicago, Illinois. Another group of students in Winnipeg also received a batch of seeds, which they incorporated their course curriculum.
Off The Grid News asserts that the plant was lost in part due to more recent history: the forced migration of Native Americans during the 1800s meant that crops and traditionally-held lands were abandoned:
Food independence and local food are important issues to Native Americans because of their history. During the 19th century the United States government was able to end Native American resistance on the frontier by destroying their food supplies. This forced the tribes onto reservations, where many of them were dependent on government handouts for food.
Now, with the rediscovery of the seeds, this crop is one that’s beginning to return to kitchen tables.