Planting Day saw many Kahnawa’kehró:non tend to their yards over the past weekend. And some gathered at the community garden to plant heaps of seeds.
The event aligns with the new moon, because it’s beneficial to plant certain seeds during certain moon phases, explained Brooke Rice, who led the initiative.
Rice was very pleased with the turnout, which saw about 30 people come together. But best of all, she was glad to see young kids who joined.
“That was the vision and the mission for me, was to have all generations planting, but most importantly, the babies because that’s who we’re feeding, and that’s what we’re doing this for, is future generations,” said Rice.
Kanahne Rice was among the participants, and she brought her daughter with her.
“I harvested corn last year while my daughter was in my belly. And I really wanted to expose her to planting,” she said.
“It was important for me to be part of a bigger community,” she said, adding she doesn’t have a garden where she can plant and was motivated to show her daughter the traditional foodways. “It was very special.”
Friends and family across the community pitched in to prepare and work the land about 10 days ahead of planting.
Tekarahkwake Deom, Joey Barnes, Trevor Diabo, Eugene Jacobs, Iohahi:io Delisle, and Kyle Zachary all lended a hand. Hannah Deer shared some of her aged composted horse manure. Brooke’s mother Paula McComber also joined, as well as her uncle Eric “Dirt” McComber, who brought fish guts, which helps remediate the soil.
“What it comes down to is empowerment, community, health, and self-sustainability,” said Tiio Hemlock, who tended to the land, which belongs to the community; and he’s also been using part of the land to grow corn for his students at First Nations Regional Adult Education Center (FNRAEC).
On the day of, they began with a tobacco burning by Ahonwakerane Stacey. “We acknowledged everything from the waters, the land all the way up to the wind and the rain, the sun, everything that’s going to help nourish the land and the corn and the seeds,” said Brooke.
Ryland Diome, of Screaming Chef Cuisine catered meals: strawberry drinks and a taco bowl-style buffalo bowl.
“I really wanted it community driven.… It was a very collective ordeal,” Brooke said.
Together, they planted Tuscarora white corn, crooked neck squash, 800-year-old squash, sunflowers, Kahnawake pole beans, yellow eyed Oneida bean, burnt house black beans, and cornbread beans.
Some of the seeds were gifted, or brought over by those who participated. Others came from a seed giveaway, and some were even traded. “I like to bring that idea back to trading, bartering,” said Brooke. “You’re not using monetary value but you’re exchanging amazing goods that we create or grow.”
She led the initiative through Tkà:nios – meaning “it grows” in Kanien’kéha – a community-based initiative geared towards promoting local foodways and promoting food sovereignty, of which she’s the project lead. She’s open to collaboration with community organizations and also sits on Kahnawake Collective Impact (KCI)’s food sovereignty action team. Tkà:nios was born after Brooke secured a grant from Concordia University’s SHIFT program, which supports social transformation and community-driven initiatives.
Currently, Brooke is in Oklahoma, along with three women from Kahnawake, for a 10-day workshop on harvesting clay and making clay pots. “This way we can come back and have traditionally cooked meals that we planted cooked in these pots,” she said.
To her, the goal of the community garden was anchored in collective action.
“It allows us to have some sort of autonomy. It brings back collectivity. It asserts our roles and responsibilities in cultivating, planting, and being able to feed each other.”
Sowing a community garden is one of many initiatives Brooke has led, and she is looking forward to more in the future.
“In my mind and in my vision, I would like to, with the community, create a space to have a greenhouse to put solar panels to plant our traditional heirloom Haudenosaunee seeds, because they’re very important to us. It’s in our culture, it’s in our teachings. It’s in our ceremonies. It’s who we are,” said Brooke.
The next undertaking for the community garden is building a well up in order to set up a water irrigation system. Anyone interested in helping is encouraged to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now with the planting complete, Brooke is hoping the community will stay involved in the process to help weed and mound. “It takes a community to have a community garden,” she said.
While other parts of the country may have celebrated the long weekend in honour of queen Victoria, that wasn’t the case for Kahnawake.
Brooke was focused on following the 13-moon calendar, which guides the planting and harvesting seasons and serves as a reminder of the cycle that’s connected to the land, she explained.
“To me, it’s about implementing those mentalies, and if we do it across Turtle Island, worldwide, we’ll forget that queens have a day.”