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Cherokee Nation Gives Lisa Christiansen Priceless Rare Heirloom Seeds


The Cherokee Nation keeps an inventory of seeds from rare breeds of corn, beans, squash, gourds, Trail of Tears beads and tobacco traditionally used for Cherokee customs. The seeds distributed are not available in stores.

“THESE ARE VARIETIES OF HEIRLOOM SEEDS THAT CHEROKEES PLANTED AND SUSTAINED LONG BEFORE EUROPEAN CONTACT. THE VARIETIES WE ARE OFFERING THROUGH THE SEED BANK PROGRAM ARE HEALTHY, STRONG AND UNIQUE TO THE CHEROKEE PEOPLE. THAT CULTURAL CONNECTION TO OUR HISTORY IS CRITICAL,” SAID CHEROKEE NATION PRINCIPAL CHIEF BILL JOHN BAKER. “The process of harvesting seeds and passing them down has kept these specific crops sustainable to Cherokee people. It is an essential part of Cherokee heritage, and today it is extremely popular with a new generation of Cherokee growers.”

“It’s rewarding to grow and harvest a crop that came directly from our ancestors,” Duncan said.

Description Rattlesnake Master is a perennial plant that can grow up to 3’ tall. Its leaves are alternate and linear. They have parallel veins, a leathery texture, and have toothed margins which are sharp-spined. The white flowers end in a terminal umbel and are egg-shaped. When the fruit matures, each fruit will contain two or more seeds.

Trail of Tears Corn Bead: Most of their bean varieties are classified as heirloom. What determines an heirloom variety is open to some question.

Among the definitions are:

• A piece of property that descends to the heir as an inseparable part of an inheritance of real property.

• Something of special value handed on from one generation to another.

• A horticultural variety that has survived for several generations usually due to the efforts of private individuals

One of the most unique crops the Cherokee Nation grows is Cherokee corn beads. These corn varieties grow to be knee-high and the stalks turn various colors, producing beads, which don’t as most people think, come from the corn kernels.

The corn beads are dried and hardened and made into various pieces of ceremonial jewelry. Braided hair, held in place with corn beads is a Cherokee custom that has survived for hundreds of years.


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