Graham Sustainability Institute

Heritage Seeds for Sustainable Lifeways

Project Team

  • David C. Michener - Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, University of Michigan
  • James Penner-Hahn - Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, University of Michigan
  • Philip J. Deloria - Departments of History and American Culture, LSA, University of Michigan
  • Christina Walters - USDA National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation
  • Shannon Martin - Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways
  • Sydney Martin - Gun Lake Tribe; Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians
  • Kevin Finney - Gun Lake Tribe; Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians
  • Scott M. Herron - Biology, Ferris State University
  • Lisa Young - Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, University of Michigan
  • Jessica Litman - Law School, University of Michigan
  • Dan Cornelius - Intertribal Agricultural Council, Great Lakes Region

Project Summary

This project convened an interdisciplinary, problem-solving meeting of University of Michigan, Anishinaabe (Tribal), and USDA plant specialists to identify key issues and develop protocols to enable sharing of heritage seeds and associated archival information currently curated in University collections.

The goal of the two-day meeting was to determine how collections can be innovatively used in partnership with the Anishinaabe, and how and when to assess the viability of archived seeds. Participants focused on identifying key challenges and sharing ideas and information. The group also addressed essential questions of how museums can aid in promoting sustainable lifeway initiatives in indigenous communities, like seed sharing and teaching native foodways.

At the meeting, participants agreed to implement the collaborative framework they were developing though a pilot project focused on a single cultigen collected from a specific community of origin—metaphorically described as the “return of one seed to one Nation.” Since the catalyst grant project ended, continued discussions with representatives of the Bkejwanong Walpole Island First Nation and UM teams has led to a project-specific memorandum of understanding and implementation of the pilot project at the Matthaei Botanical gardens.

An over-arching theme of the Heritage Seed project was the importance of framing respectful collaborations between First Nations/Tribes, UM, and other specialists that will be of mutual interest and related to the botanical collections curated at the university. The project created a foundation for sustainable-lifeways collaborative research using museum collections and can be used as a model for ways to create partnerships between universities and tribal communities.


Sustaining Lifeways and Anishinaabe Partners (July 19, 2017) Feature article describing the project

For more information, read the final project report (PDF).

This project received a $10,000 Emerging Opportunities Fall Catalyst Grant in 2017.