Stewarding Native People Through Native Foods – Na’ah Illahee Fund, Native Food Systems Initiative

Guest Blogger: Lindsay Goes Behind

Na’ah Illahee Fund’s partnership with King Conservation District has allowed over 35 Seattle area Native community members including 7 families and their children to steward through an entire growing season, 3 garden beds which produced multiple varieties of squash, beans, corn, potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, kale, cucumbers, tomatoes in addition to many varieties of traditional medicinal plants and foods native to the land we are on, that of the Duwamish people. Through this project we were able to grow sacred seeds such as Oaxacan Corn and Gete Okosomin squash. The seeds were gifted to Na’ah Illahee Fund from Indigenous Oaxacan community members and a member of the Miami Tribe of Indians, respectively. Both are ancient varieties, the Gete Okosomin squash seeds having been found buried in a clay pot during an archaeological dig on traditional Miami territories. These seeds had been in our trust waiting for the time when we would have the space and ability to grow and harvest these traditional Indigenous foods. With the funding from KCD and the UW arboretum lending three garden beds for our use, we have been able to fulfill this promise we made when we were gifted the seeds. And with the teachings from Elders who have come to share with us as well as Indigenous experts in permaculture and farming, we have seeds ready and waiting for the next planting season!

2018 Grant Award

Na’ah Illahee Fund was awarded another grant for work in 2019 that will ensure the Master Plan at Discovery Park is informed by Native people, including participants of the cohort program.

Learn more about this and other KCD-Seattle Community Partnership grants.

Our mission as an organization is to promote the leadership development of Indigenous/Native Womxn. Through our Indigenous Foods project we have been able to provide training in traditional permaculture, land and water stewardship, as well as garden planning, invasive species removal, traditional crop planting, tending, harvesting, traditional gathering and foraging as well as food preservation. Through both sites at the UW arboretum and the DayBreak Star ponds, we have gathered community members for on the ground training and experiential learning which has grown our capacity as a community to take on the task of plan, design, and implementation of traditional and sustainable land stewardship, gathering, foraging, and farming practices where we have access. Indigenous Food Cohort members have led garden planning and management as well as assisted in the plan and design for our DayBreak Star pond reclamation project as a result of the good work done to prepare community members to step into this work with both feet.

The foods grown and harvested at our garden have been shared throughout the community and utilized as part of yearly Blue Jay Brings Back the Moon celebration dinner. We were able to share with the greater community and our supporters the foods we harvested to create a traditional feast enjoyed by almost 300 Elders, adults, and children! In the Indigenous way, sharing of our table is often the greatest way we can honor and show our love and respect to the community. The Blue Jay Dinner is always this for us, but this year made even more special as our Indigenous Foods Cohort members were able to not only share the work they have done over this last year but the fruits of those labors to bring joy and nourishment to the community.

Though funding will continue to be an issue, thanks to KCD’s support this year, we have been able to lay the foundation for programming that will continue on into the future because of the joy and pride this work has brought to all of us at NIF and our community. In the Coast Salish way of showing gratitude and appreciation, we lift our hands up for the opportunity KCD has made possible to begin this work!

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