Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance Honors Seed Rematriation Through Short Film

The Cultural Conservancy and Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance (NAFSA) recently released a short film to honor the origin stories of seeds.

The film, Seed Mother: Coming Home, is part of the organizations’ ongoing efforts to reunite seeds with the Indigenous communities they originated from. Just under ten minutes in length, it incorporates music, art, animation, and storytelling to deliver the message of this work, also known as the seed rematriation movement.

NAFSA, a nonprofit supporting Native communities and their foodways, operates an Indigenous Seedkeepers Network. The Network celebrates the idea that seeds are the foundation for food sovereignty and provides the resources and programming needed to support seed policy issues and unite the individuals involved in this work. NAFSA’s Program Director Rowen White collaborated with filmmaker Mateo Hinojosa to create and produce “Seed Mother.”

Hinojosa explains that the film opens with a depiction of the story of Sky Woman and the creation of Turtle Island—a decision intended to reflect the reciprocity, generosity, and the life-giving nature of seeds. According to the story, a pregnant Sky Woman descends from the sky and, guided by birds, lands on the back of Great Turtle. Water animals attempt to draw mud from the bottom of the ocean to spread across Great Turtle’s back. The seeds that Sky Woman brought with her as sustenance and medicine then grow from her body to form Turtle Island.

The film is backed by a soundtrack that incorporates sacred songs about seeds sung by artists including Rowen White as well as the rhythm of a percussive seed rattle. Visuals consist of animation, original artwork, and photography by John Jairo Valencia and live film and storytelling featuring Indigenous seed keepers.

“Our primary goal was for people to fall in love with the seeds since we defend what we love,” Hinojosa tells Food Tank.

This vision inspired many of the filmmaking decisions, including the incorporation of video portraits of corn, beans, and squash seeds. “These seed varieties are central life sustainers for Indigenous people throughout Turtle Island and the Americas,” Hinojosa tells Food Tank. “This was part of our endeavor throughout the film: to give the seeds themselves the most space possible to communicate directly, through showing their faces in these moving video portraits, having their voices heard in the seed rattles, and in other ways.”

In addition to sharing a message about seed homecoming, the film is intended to encourage donations for NAFSA’s GoFundMe campaign Seeding the Future of Indigenous Seed Rematriation, which will directly support the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network, additional programming, and general operating costs.

According to White, “This short film… is really a love poem and an honoring song for the seeds themselves and the ways in which they’ve inspired us to [have the] responsibility [to] carry them home.”

Image courtesy of Mateo Hinojosa

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