Mason jars of seeds covered gently with blankets, squash, and pumpkins filling baskets and braided corn stalks hanging from the ceiling—these are the welcoming sights upon entering Kahéhtoktha’s home.
Kahéhtoktha, which is Mohawk for “she goes the length of the garden” grew up on a farm in Tyendinaga and has kept her own garden since the age of five. As a child, she grew simple vegetables and would pedal her bike down the street to bring offerings to her neighbours, learning the importance of sharing with the community at a young age.
As well as being an accomplished educator and artist, Kahéhtoktha is a seed saver and gardener. In the Mohawk tradition, seeds are kept in the home with families, where the teachings and knowledge they possess can be passed down to future generations.
“There’s a whole art, science, and spirituality to our food, ways that are inclusive of the foods, the medicines and the seeds,” Kahéhtoktha explains. In her home, she stores over 40 varieties of bean seeds along with corn, squash, potatoes, herbs, and flower seeds.
Since the Mohawk people have always been an agriculture-based society, these heirloom seeds date back many generations. Kahéhtoktha is a founding member of Ratinenhayen:thos, which means “they are the seed farmers” in Mohawk. The group is working towards opening the Seed Sanctuary and Learning Centre in Tyendinaga. Their vision: to create a sacred space in the urbanizing community to house, protect, and educate on seed saving, planting and harvesting traditional foods, and medicines.