USA / 5 min READ
in an Oregon classroom.
At an elementary school garden tucked into a small business park just outside Portland, Oregon, my students are reawakening diverse Indigenous seeds. The majority of them are non-Native, and we have much to learn about our role as seed savers.
Through these seeds, I want my students to understand that their food choices have a deep effect on people and the planet. They will not learn the lessons of Indigenous seed sovereignty and agrobiodiversity at grocery stores, local restaurants, home gardens, or most local farms. Learning this in the classroom will empower them to choose seeds and food responsibly in life.
The lack of Indigenous voice in the American education system and scientific community is glaringly apparent. Despite these systemic obstacles, Indigenous seed banks, farmers, chefs, and teachers do the work of seed rematriation, and so we take their lead, reawakening Indigenous voices in our classroom.
My students save four Indigenous seed varieties: the Hopi Black Dye Sunflower, Hopi Red Dye Amaranth, North Georgia Candy Roaster Squash, and the Makah Ozette Potato. None of which they have seen before, all of which have specific cultural uses and significance. All four are native to the Americas. The Makah Ozette is original to Peru. Today, Indigenous communities and their foods are at risk of extinction or erasure after centuries of European colonization. The Makah Ozette has a different story, as told through the voice of Yvonne Wilkie, Makah language and culture teacher.
Brought from South America in the late 1700s, on the tide of Spanish colonization, the Makah Ozette Potato of the Makah Nation in Neah Bay, Washington, is one of the few seed potatoes grown in the United States that did not travel to North America via Europe. Yvonne pronounces the tuber’s name as, “Qawic” /kaʊ-wɪts/ in the Makah language. When the Spanish left Neah Bay, the potato became an agricultural staple of the Makah Nation, “In Ozette,” says Yvonne, “it was all beach and forest. They would find places to plant the potatoes wherever they could and then go back and harvest them.”
Almost 200 years later, Yvonne’s grandmother grew the Makah Ozette potato in her garden, but the potato seed had become difficult to find. When Yvonne decided to grow the tuber, she received seeds from a fellow Makah gardener. At the Makah Cultural and Research Center, Yvonne and her students grew, harvested, and ate the Makah Ozette – providing a lesson in food sovereignty.
“When I was teaching 5th grade, I noticed that there were a lot of families that had moved away from Makah tradition. There are a lot of people who didn’t pick berries, didn’t go out and fish, didn’t have smoke houses. They relied on buying food at the store. One day I asked my students, 'how many of you have tried seal oil?' Only one hand went up. I called some other people in the Tribe, and we said, we have to do something about this. So I asked people in the community for smoked fish, seal oil, Ozette potatoes, clams, and mussels. It gave the kids the opportunity to try some of our traditional foods. Then I asked them to name some. I made a t-chart on the board of traditional foods and non-traditional foods. A lightbulb went off for one student. He said, 'Ms. Yvonne, everything on this side of the chart is free, and everything on this side we have to buy at a store.' We had sparked the knowledge of self-sufficiency. They learned that you can get your own clams, smoke your own fish, grow your own potatoes. Now, our young people are regenerating this knowledge."
- Yvonne Wilkie, Makah language teacher
In the 1990s, Yvonne Wilkie met the late geneticist, Chuck Brown. Chuck was interested in the disease resistance of the Makah Ozette Potato, specifically in regards to climate change. He grew the Makah Ozette seed and brought his yield back to the Makah community, distributing it to local gardeners. Together with Gerry Warren, formerly of Slow Foods Seattle, Chuck enlisted non-Native seed savers, chefs, and farmers to grow and multiply the Makah Ozette seed. However, their commercialism efforts did not resonate with the Makah community.
“I am so grateful for Chuck Brown and the love of potatoes that he shared with me. He loved researching the Makah Ozette. His research shows the connection that Native communities have up and down the coast, that we are all different in our culture, but we are also similar. Chuck was always trying to get me to grow them for commercial use, and Slow Foods started to do some outreach to get other farmers to grow the Makah Ozette commercially. It’s not part of our culture to grow things commercially. It’s not the way we think about doing things. It’s about giving and not taking. There are so many people that grow them now, and it just pleases me that there are people that want to do it and are willing to share their potatoes and their seed with me.”
- Yvonne Wilkie, Makah language teacher
This giving culture is vital to agrobiodiversity’s preservation, just as returning Indigenous seeds to their original communities is necessary for cultural preservation. Despite the Ozette’s distant travels and near extinction, its genetic resilience is sustained by a diverse seedsaving community, and most importantly, the Makah Nation. Today, Yvonne recognizes seed rematriation efforts that are led by Indigenous communities around the world.
“There has been a regeneration of Native people getting their own traditional foods back. The Makah Ozette has had a big role in that. The Makah Ozette story is unique. Not just to the Makah people. The cultural aspect of it though, that throughout all these years people have carried it on, is quite an amazing story.”
- Yvonne Wilkie, Makah language teacher
In our classroom, Yvonne is the expert and we are her students. In a recorded interview with Yvonne, I ask her questions about her experiences with the Makah Ozette. We listen to Yvonne’s stories to learn how and why to save this reawakened crop.
In the interview, I ask Yvonne how the Makah Ozette are traditionally eaten.
“My favorite way to have them is with smoked dry fish, steamed potatoes and seal oil.” she said. “Elders that are older than me, they like to have them in fish soup, either halibut or salmon. Every family has their own favorite way. They pass on the recipes through the generations.”
When I ask who the seed savers are in her community, she responds, “There are probably too many people to name, because it has gotten popular to grow the potato. There is somebody in just about every family in the village that grows them. Today, most everyone has their own garden, but they don’t just keep their harvest to themselves. Everyone exchanges food often.”
Through the story of the Makah Ozette, Yvonne delivers a message of the Makah’s culture of family connection and the importance of passing on traditional foods and recipes. It is my job to make sure my students hear her message and feel its weight.
When I ask how Yvonne first learned about the Makah Ozette Potato, she shares an important part of Makah history that my students need to understand.
“It’s been grown here in Neah Bay since the late 1700s.” She says. “Our tribe had five villages before we signed the treaty and then we became Neah Bay. The Ozette Village is farthest south. They are the ones that grew the potato first. It has been passed on from generation to generation and is still being grown here today. It has a really rich history.”
The Treaty she refers to is The Treaty of Neah Bay in 1855. An agreement through which the Makah ceded 300,000 acres of tribal land to the United States government to retain their whaling rights. My students must learn the context and impact of this treaty on the Makah. It will help them to better understand the resilience of the Makah community and why we need to return the Makah Ozette potato seed to the Makah themselves. So I pause to describe the treaty and the massive loss of Makah homelands to my students. Then I ask them, “how would you feel if we were forced to leave our school and our homes?” They respond with frowns, as well as words like, “horrible,” “scared,” “sad,” and “mad.” I tell them that this was similar to what had happened to the Makah and many other Native American tribes.
When we go out to the garden to harvest the Makah Ozette potatoes, the lessons we learned from Yvonne’s message are put into action. As we dig, I ask my students, “Who did Ms. Yvonne tell us were the seed savers in the Makah community?”
“Everyone!” “Everybody!” “In every family!”
“Right.” I say. “Do those seed savers keep the seeds to themselves?”
“No!” the whole class responds. Hands fly up in the air, eager to share.
“The Makah share and give the potatoes and their recipes to every family.”
“They share them with Ms. Yvonne and that makes her happy.”
“Ms. Yvonne said it is about giving, not taking.”
“What will we do with the potatoes that we harvest?” I ask them. Their responses vary, but the message is clear.
“Give them to Ms. Yvonne.”
“Share them with the Makah.”
“Pass them on to Ms. Yvonne’s family.”
“Why do we need to make sure these potatoes go back to the Makah and not someone else?” I ask.
“Because these are their potatoes!” Malik said, his hands full of them.
“Because their land and food was taken from them,” said Dominic, his brow furrowed.
“The potato feeds them and it makes them happy to share it,” says Celine.
“And make special recipes,” adds Kara.
Learning that “every seed has a story” is my students’ first step toward preserving agrobiodiversity, but they must hear this story from the people whose resilience has protected the seed for generations. I cannot speak for them. I hope that honoring Indigenous voices in the classroom will teach my students the value of preserving Indigenous ways of knowing. If they can become familiar with this while they are young, then perhaps when they are older, it will be second nature to shape the food system in a way that supports agrobiodiversity and the livelihoods of those woven throughout it.
Rediscovering forgotten foods reconnects us to values and traditions that define us, and safeguard indigenous and local cultures for generations to come.
Food Sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.
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Providing best water quality conditions to ensure optimal living condition for growth, breeding and other physiological needs
Water quality is sourced from natural seawater with dependency on the tidal system. Water is treated to adjust pH and alkalinity before stocking.
Producers that own and manages the farm operating under small-scale farming model with limited input, investment which leads to low to medium production yield
All 1,149 of our farmers in both regencies are smallholder farmers who operate with low stocking density, traditional ponds, and no use of any other intensification technology.
Safe working conditions — cleanliness, lighting, equipment, paid overtime, hazard safety, etc. — happen when businesses conduct workplace safety audits and invest in the wellbeing of their employees
Company ensure implementation of safe working conditions by applying representative of workers to health and safety and conduct regular health and safety training. The practices are proven by ASIC standards’ implementation
Implementation of farming operations, management and trading that impact positively to community wellbeing and sustainable better way of living
The company works with local stakeholders and local governments to create support for farmers and the farming community in increasing resilience. Our farming community is empowered by local stakeholders continuously to maintain a long generation of farmers.
Freezing seafood rapidly when it is at peak freshness to ensure a higher quality and longer lasting product
Our harvests are immediately frozen with ice flakes in layers in cool boxes. Boxes are equipped with paper records and coding for traceability. We ensure that our harvests are processed with the utmost care at <-18 degrees Celsius.
Sourcing plant based ingredients, like soy, from producers that do not destroy forests to increase their growing area and produce fish feed ingredients
With adjacent locations to mangroves and coastal areas, our farmers and company are committed to no deforestation at any scale. Mangrove rehabilitation and replantation are conducted every year in collaboration with local authorities. Our farms are not established in protected habitats and have not resulted from deforestation activity since the beginning of our establishment.
Implement only natural feeds grown in water for aquatic animal’s feed without use of commercial feed
Our black tiger shrimps are not fed using commercial feed. The system is zero input and depends fully on natural feed grown in the pond. Our farmers use organic fertilizer and probiotics to enhance the water quality.
Enhance biodiversity through integration of nature conservation and food production without negative impact to surrounding ecosysytem
As our practices are natural, organic, and zero input, farms coexist with surrounding biodiversity which increases the volume of polyculture and mangrove coverage area. Farmers’ groups, along with the company, conduct regular benthic assessments, river cleaning, and mangrove planting.
THE TERM “MOONSHOT” IS OFTEN USED TO DESCRIBE an initiative that goes beyond the confines of the present by transforming our greatest aspirations into reality, but the story of a moonshot isn’t that of a single rocket. In fact, the Apollo program that put Neil Armstrong on the moon was actually preceded by the Gemini program, which in a two-year span rapidly put ten rockets into space. This “accelerated” process — with a new mission nearly every 2-3 months — allowed NASA to rapidly iterate, validate their findings and learn from their mistakes. Telemetry. Propulsion. Re-entry. Each mission helped NASA build and test a new piece of the puzzle.
The program also had its fair share of creative challenges, especially at the outset, as the urgency of the task at hand required that the roadmap for getting to the moon be written in parallel with the rapid pace of Gemini missions. Through it all, the NASA teams never lost sight of their ultimate goal, and the teams finally aligned on their shared responsibilities. Within three years of Gemini’s conclusion, a man did walk on the moon.
FACT is a food systems solutions activator that assesses the current food landscape, engages with key influencers, identifies trends, surveys innovative work and creates greater visibility for ideas and practices with the potential to shift key food and agricultural paradigms.
Each activator focuses on a single moonshot; instead of producing white papers, policy briefs or peer-reviewed articles, these teams design and implement blueprints for action. At the end of each activator, their work is released to the public and open-sourced.
As with any rapid iteration process, many of our activators re-assess their initial plans and pivot to address new challenges along the way. Still, one thing has remained constant: their conviction that by working together and pooling their knowledge and resources, they can create a multiplier effect to more rapidly activate change.
Who can enter and how selections are made.
A Greener Blue is a global call to action that is open to individuals and teams from all over the world. Below is a non-exhaustive list of subjects the initiative targets.
To apply, prospective participants will need to fill out the form on the website, by filling out each part of it. Applications left incomplete or containing information that is not complete enough will receive a low score and have less chance of being admitted to the storytelling lab.
Nonprofit organizations, communities of fishers and fish farmers and companies that are seeking a closer partnership or special support can also apply by contacting email@example.com and interacting with the members of our team.
Special attention will be given to the section of the form regarding the stories that the applicants want to tell and the reasons for participating. All proposals for stories regarding small-scale or artisanal fishers or aquaculturists, communities of artisanal fishers or aquaculturists, and workers in different steps of the seafood value chain will be considered.
Stories should show the important role that these figures play in building a more sustainable seafood system. To help with this narrative, the initiative has identified 10 principles that define a more sustainable seafood system. These can be viewed on the initiative’s website and they state:
Seafood is sustainable when:
Proposed stories should show one or more of these principles in practice.
Applications are open from the 28th of June to the 15th of August 2022. There will be 50 selected applicants who will be granted access to The Lexicon’s Total Storytelling Lab. These 50 applicants will be asked to accept and sign a learning agreement and acceptance of participation document with which they agree to respect The Lexicon’s code of conduct.
The first part of the lab will take place online between August the 22nd and August the 26th and focus on training participants on the foundation of storytelling, supporting them to create a production plan, and aligning all of them around a shared vision.
Based on their motivation, quality of the story, geography, and participation in the online Lab, a selected group of participants will be gifted a GoPro camera offered to the program by GoPro For A Change. Participants who are selected to receive the GoPro camera will need to sign an acceptance and usage agreement.
The second part of the Storytelling Lab will consist of a production period in which each participant will be supported in the production of their own story. This period goes from August 26th to October 13th. Each participant will have the opportunity to access special mentorship from an international network of storytellers and seafood experts who will help them build their story. The Lexicon also provides editors, animators, and graphic designers to support participants with more technical skills.
The final deadline to submit the stories is the 14th of October. Participants will be able to both submit complete edited stories, or footage accompanied by a storyboard to be assembled by The Lexicon’s team.
All applicants who will exhibit conduct and behavior that is contrary to The Lexicon’s code of conduct will be automatically disqualified. This includes applicants proposing stories that openly discriminate against a social or ethnic group, advocate for a political group, incite violence against any group, or incite to commit crimes of any kind.
All submissions must be the entrant’s original work. Submissions must not infringe upon the trademark, copyright, moral rights, intellectual rights, or rights of privacy of any entity or person.
Participants will retain the copyrights to their work while also granting access to The Lexicon and the other partners of the initiative to share their contributions as part of A Greener Blue Global Storytelling Initiative.
If a potential selected applicant cannot be reached by the team of the Initiative within three (3) working days, using the contact information provided at the time of entry, or if the communication is returned as undeliverable, that potential participant shall forfeit.
Selected applicants will be granted access to an advanced Storytelling Lab taught and facilitated by Douglas Gayeton, award-winning storyteller and information architect, co-founder of The Lexicon. In this course, participants will learn new techniques that will improve their storytelling skills and be able to better communicate their work with a global audience. This skill includes (but is not limited to) how to build a production plan for a documentary, how to find and interact with subjects, and how to shoot a short documentary.
The Lexicon provides video editors, graphic designers, and animators to support the participants to complete their stories.
The submitted stories will be showcased during international and local events, starting from the closing event of the International Year of Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022 in Rome, in January 2023. The authors of the stories will be credited and may be invited to join.
Storytelling lab participation:
Applicants that will be granted access to the storytelling Lab will be evaluated based on the entries they provided in the online form, and in particular:
Applications will be evaluated by a team of 4 judges from The Lexicon, GSSI and the team of IYAFA (Selection committee).
When selecting applications, the call promoters may request additional documentation or interviews both for the purpose of verifying compliance with eligibility requirements and to facilitate proposal evaluation.
Participants to the Storytelling Lab who will be given a GoPro camera will be selected based on:
The evaluation will be carried out by a team of 4 judges from The Lexicon, GSSI and the team of IYAFA (Selection committee).
Incidental expenses and all other costs and expenses which are not specifically listed in these Official Rules but which may be associated with the acceptance, receipt and use of the Storytelling Lab and the camera are solely the responsibility of the respective participants and are not covered by The Lexicon or any of the A Greener Blue partners.
All participants who receive a Camera are required to sign an agreement allowing GoPro for a Cause, The Lexicon and GSSI to utilize the films for A Greener Blue and their promotional purposes. All participants will be required to an agreement to upload their footage into the shared drive of The Lexicon and make the stories, films and images available for The Lexicon and the promoting partners of A Greener Blue.