Indigenous Corn Restoration Project

2009 Annual Report for LNC08-301

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

Indigenous Corn Restoration Project


Our scientist partners were largely at North Dakota State University (NDSU). There some eight varieties were grown out, with pretty good success. We attended the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Conference in 2008 and 2009, and spoke with many of the farmers and scientists there, gathering support and interest. Included in early strategizing for this project were Steve Zwinger and Marcelo Carena, from the university system, combined with many of our traditional farmers. The corn varieties were passed to local farmers in the region, including:
– Linda Heinz Czerny
– Sue Wika and Tom Preive
– Curt and Darlene Ballard
– Dave Chilton
– Leona and Ron Chilton- Manitoba White
– Martin Curry- Little Traverse Reservation in Michigan and Madeline – Island/Monikwaaning Minis- Lake Superior
– David Jonesy Miller-from the Menominee Reservation in Northeast Wisconsin.

As well, we had two urban Native gardens, Women’s Environment Institute and Seward Community School (Sharon Day- Nett Lake Ojibwe). Kim Knutson will continue our relationship with previous SARE grantee, Dream of Wild Health, which is growing out other varieties.
The following is a list of self-reports from some of our growers:

Czerny Farm Alexandria, South Dakota:
“The white flint corn did very well and probably a very early variety (approx. 90 day corn). We did have some critters that seem to enjoy the corn as much as we did. It is a sweet variety and would make an excellent sweet corn. We had made corn meal, breading for fried zucchini and corn bread. They were the best ever!

Due to the humid and cool weather we did have problems with mold on the corn. Could have been solved by harvesting earlier than we did. One of the characteristics of the corn is that the husks stay closed and do not dry out as well as if the ends would be open or loose. A characteristic of an open pollinated corn variety.

We did give some corn seed to Dallas Chief Eagle who lives north of Pine Ridge area and Carol from the Martin S.D. area. John and I are planning to plant the white flint corn again this year. We will keep a record and let you know how it grows this year.”

Sue Wika/Tom Prieve Farm- Ashby Minnesota:
“Arikara planted 25 May 2009 on newly broken sod (Coteau des Prairies) near Grenville, South Dakota. 90% germination. Crop looked great! Total crop loss due to severe hail (late June 2009) and raccoon predation.

Pink and White planted 5 June 2009 on farm (Ashby, Mn). 36 seeds planted. 90% germination. Lots of color (solid white, light pink, dark pink cobs). Harvested 7 Oct 2009. Long cobs. Heavy bird predation. 14 cobs saved (many with missing kernels).

Mandan planted 5 June 2009 on farm (Ashby, Mn). 60 seeds planted. 75% germination. Stalks broke in early August during wind storm. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t expecting much. Surprise, surprise–48 beautiful, full, even cobs of uniform kernel color and size were harvested 7 Oct 2009. There were a few cobs with mold, but the weather had been very wet for an extended period leading to harvest time and many of the stalks were broken down. Several stalks had two ears.

We will plant the Mandan and Pink and White spring 2010 from our saved seed. We will plant Arikara using the few kernels left from last year’s seed.”

David Chilton Farm- Rochert Minnesota:
Dave grew pink lady flour corn, a particularly colorful and sweet flour corn. The corn was planted June l, in a former horse pasture, and was largely fertilized with horse manure. The fertility, maturation was excellent and there was no cross breeding due to the remote location. The harvest was only challenged by a raccoon, but was an excellent harvest of seed corn, providing the foundation for this year’s crop. The children in the Callaway Boys and Girls Club were part of the corn shucking and will be involved in this year’s corn feasting.

Leona Chilton and Ron Chilton:
The Manitoba white flint corn grown by Leona and Ron Chilton provided for good to excellent production, of this northern variety, bringing in a good field of the corn. Early planting and excellent summer provided for good harvest of this northern variety.

Martin Curry/Mort Cushman Farm- Madeline Island:
Saskatchewan White Flint was grown at this farm. The corn germinated well- a 97% rate, and grew to a short size, which may be what we are looking for in this variety. The small cobs matured fairly well, but it was clear that a larger plot needed to be cared for, to better provide for viability in the farming operation.

Martin Curry/Gwekaanimad Bliss Farm:
Saskatchewan white flint was grown here, intercropped as a three sister’s garden with Lakota squash and Hidatsa shield bean varieties. The corn grew to full maturity and well as germinated well. The corn however was not broad enough in numbers to insure that there was good pollination. The intercropping system would work well, with a larger amount of corn.

Menominee Nation- Jonesy Miller:
“Grew out l00 plus plants of Bear Island Flint Corn successfully in this northern variety. The Menominee Nation has a northern climate similar to the original location of Bear Island Flint. The germination, pollination and harvest was good. I distributed the Bear Island Flint to about a half dozen menominee community members. 4 reported the corn grew well for them but no one planted in any quantities. At most 4 dozen.We are almost completely forest here in the Creators Country. In my personal garden I grew about 150 ears which I dried and still have seed stock to share with the community. Very vigorous and fertile corn. Good Soup. Nice short season variety that beat the frost.Added some potash or ashes from the wood stove and a bit of cattle manure from our fields.They were watered regularly. I added Bear Beans (Pole) and both enjoyed each others company, as I do yours. Gotta get back to the fields down here at Tsyunhehkwa…hope the small amount of info helps you out.”

Objectives/Performance Targets

Project director was able to do secondary research into a wide variety of historical, anthropological and other research with the assistance of Dave Zwinger and Dr. Bill Gartner. Much of this data is still being considered, particularly the scope of historical corn in our region, which Dr. Gartner was able to provide at the 20l0 Indigenous farming conference held by the White Earth Land Recovery Project and through review of his dissertation “Raised Field Landscapes of Native North America” from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Additional interviews included those with Deb Echohawk, Pawnee Seed Keeper; Gerard Baker from the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribe, and former director of Mt. Rushmore national park, presently National Native American liaison for the National Park Service.

Miguel Sandistevan- Taos Pueblo and Whit Davis: Mohegan corn restoration. All of these interviews took place, and many more are underway with significant interest in the interviews and documentation of the corn.


The farming conference and outreach, including a number of tribal colleges in the region, has netted new interest and an expansion of the corn project during the 2009 year. Also, a number of tribal communities and initiatives in the region are going to share their material for similar projects in our territories, including the Sault Ste. Marie band of Ojibwe, Bad River, Sisseton, Ogalala Lakota, and Lower Sioux Dakota.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Youth involvement in the corn project was largely in the White earth crops, with some interest in the NDSU propagation project. We hope to expand that in the upcoming year, however a number of graduate students worked with Dr. Carena in this project, and we have significant support in that arena.

Project Executive Director, Winona LaDuke presented the Indigenous Restoration Project at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck North Dakota, Leech Lake Tribal College in Cass Lake, Minnesota, the American Indians in Science and Engineering annual Conference in Portland, Oregon, and at the NASA Conference Native Homelands and Climate Change in Shakopee Minnesota.


Steve Zwinger

[email protected]
Research Specialist
North Dakota State University
663 Hwy. 281 NE
PO Box 219
Carrington, ND 58421
Office Phone: 7016522951
Dr. Marcelo Carena

[email protected]
North Dakota State University
Loftsgard Hall PO Box 5051
Fargo, ND 58102
Office Phone: 7012317971