Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ówîngeh Tá, Pueblos Y Semillas Gathering and Seed Exchange

One never knows what the weather will bring at this time of year in the high desert of New Mexico but April 11th was a blessed day. Cool air, wispy clouds and the spring winds that can stir up emotions and dust to block ones vision held to a gentle breeze. The orchards of the Chimayo valley were full of fruit blossoms, acequias were running, farmers were out moving bales of alfalfa and gardeners were tending their sprouting seeds.
It was a time of renewal.
Traditional agriculture, and I stress the word culture, is so deeply rooted in here in Northern New Mexico. The act of planting, growing, sharing and eating locally grown food is embedded in the way of living and being. It is a spiritual act and one to be revered, carefully protected and held with a deep respect.

In 2006 a traditional agriculture conference was held in Alcalde in the Española Valley. Many people attended to participate in a seed blessing and exchange and to witness the signing of the Seed Sovereignty Declaration.
This important document was drafted by members of the Traditional Native American Farmers Association and the New Mexico Acequia Association.  Then this initial alliance was strengthened by the participation of Tewa Women United and Honor our Pueblo Existence.
These committed organizations have continued to make great strides to protect the native seeds, traditions and wisdom of the indigenous land-based communities of New Mexico.
The New Mexico Food and Seed Sovereignty Alliance, which is composed of the New Mexico Acequia Association, Honor our Pueblo Existence, Tewa Women United and the Traditional Native American Farmers Association, has held a traditional seed blessing and exchange every year since that first gathering. After Alcalde it moved to Española where it became so popular that it turned into "a seed frenzy” and the original idea of honoring and blessing the traditional seeds and farmers disappeared in the hubbub.
The organizers felt a need to regroup and bring this community seed event back to its essence, back to the dignity and spiritual land-based respect. And this they did.
Now the Ówîngeh Tá, Pueblos Y Semillas Gathering and Seed Exchange alternates between an acequia community one year and a pueblo the next.

 This year was the 10th Annual gathering  “Nuestra Madre, Nuestra Cuerpo”  was held at the community center in the small acequia community of Peñasco, which is located on the scenic road to Taos. At the entrance of the community center there was a poster which made it clear that by passing though this portal one would be entering into a sacred ceremonial space.

Please observe the ground rules: 
No political campaigns 
No soliciting
No surveys or petitions 
No issue campaigns except those approved by the alliance
No genetically modified (GMO) seeds
No photos during the ceremony
Yes to native, heirloom, land race and organic seeds! 
Yes to prayer and ceremony 
Yes to family and community connections 
Yes to sharing our food and seeds together and building relationships  

The day opened with a prayer, song, incantations to San Isidro, the patron saint of farmers, a special alabado to the departed by the Hermanos Penitentes and ceremony to honor the water, soil and seeds from the four directions. The south being anywhere south of Española, in case anyone was wondering.
We were asked to feel into the ceremony, to put our cameras, phones and electronic gadgets away, to bring all of ourselves, to be present for the seeds, the nourishment and life they bring to us and to our mother earth. It is best not to write about this ceremony, it is best to just to hold on to the feeling and energy that was evoked to the interconnection between all of us, the ground on which we were standing and the seeds we were holding.

"The leader of the ceremony will call forward the four land and water offerings. Afterwards the people who brought seeds will line up to make their offering. Each seed-saver should have a sampling of their seeds in a basket, which we will hand out. The participants will move through the line and walk around the ceremonial circle to offer their seeds for a blessing
 directed by the ceremony leader".
 From the Ówîngeh Tá, Pueblos Y Semillas program.

Grupo Coatlicue, Danza Azteca-Chichimeca
When the ceremony came to a close the seed swap began and the Grupo Coatlicue held space and continued ceremony with their drumming and dancing. People had brought many varieties of local seeds and were excited to share them and talk about them. Seed-savers are a passionate animated group that love to share their stories along with their seeds and this gathering was no exception. Soon the room was humming with conversation and the expectation of perhaps finding a new variety of seed.  Tewa Women United set up a station to make seed balls with the water, earth and seeds that were brought from the four directions. Kids played with these seeds, made images, got their hands in the soil, splashed in the water and brought a playfulness to us all.

In true Northern New Mexico spirit the sharing of food was an essential part of this gathering and local chef Margaret Garcia, from Taos Real Food and her helpers, provided everyone with a true feast of locally grown food. We all sat around communal tables to continue our stories and deepen our  new connections.

Listen to one of these stories:
Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray

The day was completed by a panel of wise women who spoke from their hearts about health, environmental issues, and the importance of the reconnection to “la cultura” and to the ceremonies that have been part of this Northern New Mexico landscape for centuries. We were reminded to never forget the power of ceremony and that if held sacred these acts have the power to transform not only ourselves but the world around us.
As the day drew to a close Kathy Sanchez gathered us all in a circle where we held hands with new friends with whom we had shared lunch and had swapped seeds and stories. We all felt for that special moment connected and when we left that truly New Mexican ceremonial space we graciously held part of it in our hearts and in our hands.

A special thank you to the incredible Pilar Trujillo from the New Mexico Acequia Association,  all the women from Tewa Women United and Marian Naranjo, of Honor our Pueblo Existence. It is such an honor to be in your presence.


  1. Nice post good to see you all there. This was my 6 year attending and 5th year playing music.

    David García El Guache NM

  2. and the music was wonderful......