Community , Culture , Health

Indigenous traditional corn growers coming to Osage Territory for Braiding the Sacred gathering

The Osage Nation is hosting a first-of-its-kind southern plains gathering for traditional corn growers called Braiding the Sacred.

The gathering, Nov. 3-5, will be three days of talking circles, networking, traditional foods, social activities and connecting. The invitations to neighboring tribes have been sent and there are 40 spots available for traditional corn growers.

Osage tribal member Keir Johnson-Reyes, who is a resident of Placerville, Calif., is spearheading the gathering along with Joe Hall, Osage, who resides in Grayhorse and is a traditional corn grower as well.

“[Braiding the Sacred] is comprised of traditional corn growers, working to build solidarity between tribal efforts to preserve traditional corn, from Canada to South America,” Johnson-Reyes said. “Our focus is the lower 48. We’ve been having these gatherings throughout the country, Onondaga, Seneca, Pueblos, Navajo, Oneida, and the Osage.”

Johnson-Reyes said he has sought the help of the Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center, Ginger Kent-Hollis has agreed to cook the Osage meals for the participants, Addie Roanhorse of the Chief’s Office is designing flyers to help with communications needs, Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn is a traditional corn grower himself and has sent invitations to neighboring tribes and the Osage Casinos which will provide lodging for the participants, free of charge.

“There was an amazing corn preserver named Carl Barns, and in the last 40 years preserved corn from 300-400 tribal nations and had a collection of 1,000 entries from all over the Americas. He died and his family gave it to a man who gave it to Braiding the Sacred network,” Johnson-Reyes said. “There is a coordinated national effort to preserve and repatriate this seed back to these tribal nations. We’re seeing corn as a unifier that brings tribal nations together from Canada to South America because there are corn nations throughout the scope of the Americas.”

Johnson-Reyes and Hall have been at the helm of preserving the Osage seed. They are working on gaining interest in the community, growing the seed stock in the community and getting more Osages involved.

In June, the Bluestem Ranch LLC Board of Directors donated bison meat to Johnson-Reyes so they could use it for Braiding the Sacred in November. The Osage Nation Foundation also awarded a $2,500 grant for the gathering. 

According to the Braiding the Sacred website, “Braiding the Sacred was created in 2015 in response to the threats corn cultures are facing through the globally imbalanced relationship to maize. This imbalanced relationship has caused a deterioration of the genetic base of maize and in the extraordinarily rich and important ways in which local stewards have maintained agrobiodiversity as part of their cultural fabric. In 2016, Braiding the Sacred gathered in Onondaga, Pojoaque and Tesuque Pueblos, and in Oneida.” 

For more information about the Osage Braiding the Sacred gathering, call or email Keir Johnson-Reyes at (916) 995-3209 or keir@indianaglink.com.

For more information on Braiding the Sacred, visit www.braidingthesacred.org