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Abenaki Gateway Garden and Unceded Abenaki Territory Acknowledgement

Updated: Jun 13

We live and learn on unceded Abenaki territory. Let us acknowledge that this land Ndakinna was and is to this moment inhabited by the original stewards of this landscape who were overcome by another culture that did not respect or value the richness of spirit and ideas of the Abenaki people. At Common Roots we acknowledge that it is our privilege to grow food on Abenaki ancestral ground taken from the original VT citizens. Our farm and the surrounding South Village neighborhood hold archeological evidence of Abenaki life ways.






We have been moved and committed to respond to Chief Don Steven’s (of the Abenaki Nulhegan Band) request to support Abenaki food security for its 1500 citizens as a hopeful and necessary path to their food sovereignty. In light of limited access to ancestral foods that could support increased resistance to diabetes we have for the past four years grown food for the Abenaki food bank as well as conserved heritage seeds for their seed bank.


The Abenaki Seven Sister crops are a collection of plants that have been successfully planted together for thousands of years. Seeds have been carried by seed guardians, such as Walking Bear, who in 2015 was living in Maine and held the last 12 Abenaki Rose Flour corn seeds. In September 2021 I harvested, along with a third grade class, 327 rose flour corn seeds. In September 2023 we harvested hundreds of ears of Calais flint corn, a variety that has survived since 1862 when snow fell every season in VT, and Calais Corn again survived the VT flooding rains of 2023! Now if that isn’t resilience what is?


The Seven Sisters gardening methods grew out of the practices of an indigenous science - from wisdom known long before we had research labs. Today’s scientists now recognize these ancient practices as complex ecological relationships that are exemplary sustainable agricultural practices.


Looking at it from an Abenaki cultural perspective this gardening system is a sacred gift bestowed by the Creator and serves as a model for actions that also support good social practices and relationships.


For example,

*Sister Squash mulch serves to conserve water resources and impede weeds and prickles the paws of hungry raccoons

*Sister Ground cherry protects soil fungal activity

*Tobacco smoke lifts prayers of gratitude to the Creator as well as repels insects

*Sister Corn mothers the whole community - Humans, Soil, Raccoon, Deer, and Crows

*Sister Pole Bean is given the support of Sister Sunflower and in an act of reciprocity revitalizes the soil by fixing nitrogen

*Sister Sunflower supports Sister Pole Beans and feeds the hungry birds

*Sister Jerusalem Sunchoke is a perennial giver of abundance


All these crops are referred to as kinfolk, as equal members of the Abenaki community. It is a profound blessing to grow inwardly alongside the 7 Sisters, to have been gifted with the revelation that each Sister was bestowed with special gifts that are integral in supporting food access for all members of their community - human, animal, and plant kindoms!!


We are grateful to be learning and sharing these cultural ecological teachings that model the necessary medicine to heal today’s soils and societal ailments.


May we live deeply into these teachings that inspire interacting in an evolving state of harmony, that model respectful relationships toward of all beings, and honor the sacred interdependence of the web of life.


Climate changes challenge us first and foremost to renew hope, and to sacrifice, if we are to make sacred again our soils and our food systems that can deny respect and equal access. The Abenaki Gateway Garden invites us to become the eighth Sister, or Brother. The Seven Sisters model for us a way to evolve new capacities, to protect, sustain, grow our communities beyond sustainable - toward living in abundance, resilience while collectively thriving.


When you visit our farm please stop by and pause in the Abenaki Gateway Garden, the garden where I come home to my heart and spirit. On our greater farm you may well see thousands of other vegetables, yet really we are growing hope. It looks like food, yet we intend its vitality to deeply nourish us so that we feel in ourselves the power to grow not simply food, but a flourishing community.


Feel free to stop by and pause at the Abenaki Gateway Garden where I come home to my heart and spirit. Inside what we call Sister Squash (Wassawa in Abenaki), the Great Spirit, the Great Mystery has enshrined within each humble seed the full potential for a food secure future. Within each mindfully mothered and harvested seed is hope. And it is we who must commit to be the tenders of hope. Reach out if you would like a guided walkabout with me.


JoAnne Dennee

Food and Land Educator

802 734 2979

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