Cherokee Nationfirst tribe in the United States to receive an invitation to deposit its traditional seeds in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a long-term seed storage facility housed deep inside a mountain on a remote island in Norway. Svalbard is about 800 miles from the North Pole. It is the world’s most sheltered storage facility, created to safeguard as much of the Earth’s unique genetic material as possible. Sometimes called a “doomsday vault,” Svalbard now holds about 1 million crop seeds from across the world and can store up to 4.5 million varieties. Nine Cherokee seeds were recently vacuum-sealed and meticulously packaged according to specific guidelines before being shipped to the Svalbard seed vault, where they will be stored indefinitely. The seeds selected include Cherokee white eagle corn (the tribe’s most sacred corn, which is used for cultural ceremonies), Cherokee long greasy beans, Cherokee Trail of Tears beans, Cherokee turkey gizzard black and brown beans, Georgia candy roaster squash and three other varieties of corn. The chosen crops represent a core part of Cherokee identity. These varieties are genetically unique to the Cherokee Nation. They are the same crops our people have been farming for hundreds of years. They are important both culturally and scientifically. The preservation of these seeds has always been a priority for our people. Losing a plant variety is irreversible in the same way as the extinction of a bird, reptile or mammal. If the worst should happen, there is peace of mind in knowing these precious seeds are protected in the Svalbard vault. Today, a new generation of Cherokees is embracing the planting and harvesting tradition. It makes me proud that we are carrying on this great Cherokee practice, just as countless generations before us have done. The Cherokee Nation seed bank continues to grow and get more popular every year, as staff fulfill requests and ship more than 10,000 seed packets annually to our citizens around the world. It remains a vital link to keep the Cherokee Nation connected to our homeland while preserving our history and heritage. If you are a citizen of one of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes and would like to request seeds from our seed bank, please visit secure.cherokee.org/seedbank for details.
Chuck Hoskin Jr. is the 18th elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, the largest Indian tribe in the United States. He is only the second elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from Vinita, the first being Thomas Buffington, who served from 1899-1903. Prior to being elected Principal Chief, Hoskin served as the tribe’s Secretary of State. He also formerly served as a member of the Council of the Cherokee Nation, representing District 11 for six years.
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