Sowing and Sharing Heirloom Seeds: Cultivating Culture

BY JOSH FOURKILLER
Multimedia Specialist
05/14/2020 01:00 PM
STILWELL – Natalie Yeager is one of many Cherokee Nation citizens who received seeds from the Cherokee Nation Seed Bank to grow throughout this growing season.

Yeager will be growing White Eagle Corn with plans to mill the corn into cornmeal after it is grown and harvested. Yeager, who also teaches the fifth grade at Maryetta School in Stilwell, Oklahoma, started gardening with her husband as a hobby, but it quickly became so much more than that for her. It became a connection to the things of the past, her grandparent and her culture.

“Me and my husband have been married for about 10 years and our first place that we lived in was my grandmother’s house. It was actually on my family’s original Indian allotment. We put in our first garden, our first year of marriage there,” Yeager said. “You know our ancient ancestors, they believed that anything they found was from the creator, from foraging in the woods to planting seeds of corn, those things were very sacred to them, food was very sacred to them. Cherokees took planting ceremonies and those kinds of things to secure a blessing on their food. Those are things I want to share with my children, and I want my children’s children to know about that because to know Cherokee history, that’s super important to what makes us unique.”

Yeager is using the Three Sisters method of gardening for growing her White Eagle Corn, the Three Sisters are corn, beans and squash.

“Basically, the story of the Three Sisters is that all three types of seeds, the plants work together to give nutrients to what it needs. Usually you start corn first, and then about two or three weeks later you start your beans and your squash,” she said.

Yeager has sown the White Eagle Corn into the ground and is excited to start the process of growing and eventually reaping a harvest of this Cherokee Heirloom Seed.

“My next research project is to find out how our ancestors used it for cooking, I’m pretty excited about that and what kinds of dishes I can come up with,” she said.

The Cherokee Phoenix is chronicling Yeager’s process of growing the White Eagle corn this year through a five-part series that began with her receiving the seeds and will end with the processing and utilizing of the crop. Be sure to follow and like us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to follow Yeager’s journey with us.

About the Author
Multimedia Specialist Josh Fourkiller currently lives in Tahlequah, Oklahoma but calls Stilwell his hometown. He began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in February of 2020. Born and raised in Oklahoma, Josh always knew he wanted to work for the Cherokee p ...
josh-fourkiller@cherokee.org • 918-207-3969
Multimedia Specialist Josh Fourkiller currently lives in Tahlequah, Oklahoma but calls Stilwell his hometown. He began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in February of 2020. Born and raised in Oklahoma, Josh always knew he wanted to work for the Cherokee p ...

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