Indigenous Corn Restoration Project

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2008: $150,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Grant Recipient: White Earth Land Recovery Project
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Winona LaDuke
White Earth Land Recovery Project

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: native plants


  • Crop Production: continuous cropping, crop rotation, fallow
  • Education and Training: demonstration, networking, participatory research, youth education
  • Energy: energy use
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Pest Management: genetic resistance
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, local and regional food systems, partnerships, sustainability measures


    We have had great with our program, and have helped build food-wealth in our community, and region, through through our program.


    2011: Our work to restore our Indigenous corn varieties, and create education and awareness of these varieties has been very successful, and we’re proud of our growth and thankful to the support of SARE. We had great success with gaining more allies and support for our work from regional partners who participated and trained at our 9th Annual Indigenous Farming Conference, hosting more than 100 participants. We worked this year with tribal and non-tribal members, as well as the local Amish community to grown out 5 different varieties of our corn. 1) Bear Island Flint 2) Manitoba White Flint 3) Pink Lady Flint 4) White Popcorn 5) Black popcorn.
    The discussions around seed saving that took place at the conference, which involved participants such as the Midwest Coordinator for USDA’s Sustainable agriculture Research and Education Program, local allied growers, representatives from the University of Minnesota Morris, and local tribal colleges, resulted in the development of a plan for co-creating the seed library – the “Miinan Maakok”, which means “The Seed Box”. As a result of our seed saving, 2011 was the first year we were able to sell our own corn varieties – a huge achievement. We were able to offer these seed for sale and barter at our winter Farming Conference, as well as post growing-season.
    By developing our relationships and online presence we leveraged in three WWOOF volunteers, and several local youth to work in our corn fields. As a result of great help, good relationships and innovative methods we had good success with the Pink Lady corn grown in Callaway. The Saskatchewan White Flint grown by our Amish friends near the southern border of the reservation, brought in a bountiful harvest. Two reservation families, Curt and Darlene Ballard, and Dave Chilton successfully grew the Pink Lady flour corn – and Manitoba White Flint. the latter using some good horse manure. The Manitoba White corn grew on the four-acre field Maandaamin Akiing, in the Strawberry Lake area.
    We brought youth from two reservation schools to the corn fields and Gitiigaanig Farm in the autumn before harvest to see our gardens, meet the goats, horses, poultry and to go through a hay maze. The Nay Tah Waush Charter School students were able to pick corn in the Mandaamin Akiing. We had the Circle of Life Academy students come to WELRPs’ office where they learned how to take corn off the cob, braid corn together for drying, and some students even made cornhusk dolls. We served a lunch featuring the corn, and continue our work in the Farm To School Project by providing locally grown food to the school lunch menu.

    Project objectives:

    Short term:

    • We will continue to grow out our heritage seeds, and identify new farmers/farms/fields to carry out this objective in.
    • We will build relationships between Indigenous farmers, Tribal community colleges, and the University of Minnesota, Morris, and other educational institutions.
    • We will make our heritage foods more widely available in our community.
    • Utilize traditional Anishinaabe farming methods to increase integrity and production levels of our foods.
    • Connect our youth leaders with regional educational and grassroots institutions, farmers, and producer in order to aggregate knowledge, resources, and leadership opportunities.

    Intermediate Outcomes:

    • Build community utilization of traditional farming knowledge and methods, and access to the tools to carry these practices out – which means networking and aggregation of resources between tribal organizations and farmers.
    • Provide youth leaders with leadership opportunities to utilize their knowledge of corn-breeding and seed selection by hiring and training them in founding, managing, and growing, our regional seed library.
    • Share our traditional farming knowledge and practices by educating our own community, and by informing other’s practicum by implementing the Anishinaabe Farming Curriculum in tribal colleges, and state colleges throughout the region.
    • Share the success we’ve had with the implementation of traditional plant husbandry and farming methods with the community, and the region by broadcasting these stories on Niijii Broadcasting.
    • We will expand the cultural knowledge and heritage of our traditional foods throughout our community by implementing Farm to School educational programs, sharing our foods at our ceremonies (which have recently been brought back to White Earth), and training food service staff to prepare these foods and serve them to our elders and in our ceremonies. .
    • Complete an Ojibwe Farm to School workbook to compliment the farming work and allow tribal foods to move more quickly into tribal schools.
    • Present our farming stories in at least twenty tribal forums in 20ll and beyond. We were able to do this widely with our executive director.

    Long term:

    • Build Native American communities’ intellectual capital, and our ability to share it widely in many Native and non Native venues, in order to insure and improve farming outputs.

    • Restore nutritionally and culturally significant foods to our region as part of our plan to decrease diabetes and other diet-related illnesses among Native Americans.

    • Increase Native youths’ role in determining the future of their communities.

    Our project will ultimately provide the foundation for long-term food security for Native American people in the face of climate change, decreased access to fossil fuel, and their effects on agriculture.
    Our project will ultimately provide the foundation for long-term food security for Native American people in the face of climate change, decreased access to fossil fuel, and their effects on agriculture.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.