Monday, April 18, 2016

Ówînegh Táh Pueblos Y Semillas Gathering and Seed Exchange

SeedBroadcast at the Nambé Pueblo Wellness Center
It had rained all night. It was one of those soft gentle rains that are so rare here in the high desert. A rain that soaks into the hard ground instead of bouncing off and forming streams that wash away the topsoil. When I woke early, the light of dawn just arriving, I could still hear the rain dropping on to the tin roof. Here in the desert of the southwest we pray for these kinds of rains.
It was a blessed day.
After taking some moments to breathe in the damp air I meandered north to gather with other seed lovers to celebrate and bless the seeds for another year.
The rain decided to join us.
 The 11th Annual Ówînegh Táh Pueblos Y Semillas Gathering and Seed Exchange was held this year in the pueblo of Nambé and was presented by the pueblo and the New Mexico Food and Seed Sovereignty Alliance. This year’s theme was Remedios de la Tierra: Agua, Comida, Plantas/ Nânkwiyo Wo, Po, Kohgi. Phé Yâvi. Medicines of the Earth: Water, Food, Plants.

Hava beans from Abiquiu
 The New Mexico Food and Seed Sovereignty Alliance was formed in 2006 following the Seed Sovereignty Declaration in which farmers from our tribal, Pueblo and Acequia communities signed the declaration to defend seeds from genetic contamination. To make sure that this declaration is reactivated and kept alive in our northern New Mexico communities these important gatherings continue to bring seeds and people together.

To evoke this year’s theme and bring the essence of New Mexico into the space at the Nambé  Wellness Center we were welcomed with an opening prayer from Phillip Perez the Governor of the pueblo. Then the seed ceremony began with Los Hermanos Penitentes de: La Morada de Nuestro Señor de Esquipula La Cofradia de la Santísima Trinidad y otras Moradas blessing the space with an alabado and invocation to San Ysidro the patron saint of farmers. As the hermanos circled the room we all stood close to one and other in a deep silence listening to the voices and prayers resonate around the room. A stillness was held, a stillness that allowed us to reflect on our departed farmers, acequierous and community members.

After the hermanos brought their prayer to a closing Kathy Sanchez from Tewa Women United and Marian Narjanjo of Honor our Pueblo Existence led the seed blessing. Earth and water were brought by youth from the four directions and placed in a circle in the center of the room. Then all of the seed savers were invited to carry a selection of our seeds in small woven baskets into the circle and place them with the water and the earth at one of the four directions. Each seed basket was placed at the direction from which the seeds emerged, mine went to the south and were carefully taken from me by a young woman who smiled and placed them gently on the floor.
We were bringing our seeds home.

Cotton and devils claw from Roxanne Swentzall
The silence continued and as I entered into the circle I felt the room in the Nambé Wellness Center turn from a basketball court into a place of deep reverence not only for the seeds but also for each other. I saw people hug and shake hands; children making way for their elders, and a communal hope arise for the new planting season.
To complete the ceremonial cycle the Santa Clara Pueblo dancers moved their feet and hearts in a traditional rain dance. It was explained that the chanted songs had been in this community for thousands of years, and that every article of clothing and way of being was intentionally worn and held as a spiritual connection to the sky, earth, and mother earth.
 Not only is this gathering a blessing for the seeds it is a blessing for the elders that have carried and held the traditional ways. This years Aciano Se:daa Lifeways award was given to Raymond and Lila Narjanjo. As their family of children and grand-children and great-grand-children gathered round, Raymond explained that he and Lila had been married for sixty seven years. It made me think of the resilience within our pueblos not only of the culture but also the seeds and humans that are all connected.

SeedBroadcast sharing seeds and stories
This brought us to the seed exchange and the gentle ceremonial atmosphere contained the exchange and instead of the usual seed frenzy people were respectful and tried hard to only take what seeds they would plant. There were seeds from all over, havas and peanuts from Abiquiu, a special cotton from Roxanne Swentzell and many more varieties.

 Roxanne Swentzell

As seeds were exchanged so were stories.
Harold Trujillo of the New Mexico Acequia Association told me that he loved to dig the spring soil as it glitters, “You know that glitter don’t you” he asked me. He also told the story of one time when he cleaned the weeds from his corn field how at the end of the day when he stood up to stretch out his back he heard the corn clap….. “You know that sound the corn makes when the wind blows it sounds like clapping." Time was also given for traditional herbalists, plant medicine specialists and farmers to share their wisdom. Gilbert Yazzie from Shiprock told of the tragedy that hit his community last year when the spill from the Colorado Gold King mine contaminated the Animas and San Juan rivers. As the rivers turned to a sickly yellow color the Navajo Nation declared a state of emergency. The headwaters to Gilbert’s farm were shut off. “Our sacred corn and squash were affected. We held prayers. We said the water will fix itself. I am still looking forward to planting this season and when we plant we say 'here my little ones here is some water for you to grow'. It is all part of the circle of life. We are sending our energy and strength through our ceremony to all the farmers. There is only one water.”

Gilbert Yazzie with members if the New Mexico Food and Seed Sovereignty Alliance
 Over in a quite corner of the room a group of youth and women mixed the earth, water and seeds from the morning ceremony and rolled this life giving mud between the palms of their hands into small seed ball bundles . These seed bundles will be given to the peace and dignity runners  as they make their way North to South running thousands of miles in honor of the sacredness of the seeds. These seed bundles will be tied to the runner’s staffs for the duration of their journey.

Seed bundles
 The day concluded as the beginning with a blessing and a Mohawk song for the seeds. The prayers, seeds, earth, rain and mother earth came together in that room on the hill in Nambé Pueblo. The seeds were truly blessed and we all left with seeds in our pockets, a determination to make sure that these seeds and traditions are kept alive and even though we know its still a long difficult road ahead our hearts were full of hope.
SeedBroadcaster Ruben Olquin with Marian Narjano and the seed pot made by Roxanne Swentzell as a gift for Nambé Pueblo

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