Traditional seed varieties cultivated for generations have far fewer protections than modified or hybrid seeds. Six senators have introduced legislation to level the playing field.
Clayton Brascoupé has farmed in the red-brown foothills of New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains for more than 45 years. A Mohawk-Anishnaabe originally from a New York reservation, Brascoupé married into the Pueblo of Tesuque tribe and has since planted at least 60 varieties of corns, beans, squashes, and other heirloom crops grown for millennia by the area’s Native Americans.
For more than three decades, he has taught other indigenous farmers about sustainable agricultural practices, seed saving, healthy eating, and traditional food production. With seed diversity loss a grave concern in recent years, Brascoupé has been cataloguing the seeds stored by his own family. But earlier this spring, two of his tool sheds burned down, destroying several dozen varieties.
“I will have trouble replacing them. They may be lost for good,” said Brascoupé, who runs the Traditional Native American Farmers Association.