Yesterday my Vet and I created our version of the Indigenous Tewa Seed Ceremony, something I have not done since living in New Mexico (except to honor the Seed Moon). We didn’t plan to make an exchange of plants and seeds on Earth Day because neither of us believe in or thought about it – (neither do Indigenous peoples) – every day is earth day – so it just ‘happened’ on the day before the Seed Moon becomes full.

After giving Gary a very special heirloom scarlet runner bean sprout of mine (and seeds) along with the rest of ‘his’ plants that I had been nurturing for months, we also split up a sedum to share, one that he had given me in the hospital last fall, closing another circle of giving and receiving.

It wasn’t until after we parted that I was struck by lightning. Visceral memories surfaced as I relived the Tewa Sacred Seed Ceremonies I had attended in NM, gradually coming to the realization that we had unwittingly participated in an ancient ceremonial exchange that may have originally extended back to Neolithic times.

Astonished by the unconscious reenactment of an Indigenous tradition that honors the giving and receiving of seeds and plants, I wondered how I had forgotten.

Like all Indigenous peoples in the Northern Hemisphere, the Tewa celebrate this day around April’s Full Seed Moon. To the Tewa, the exchanging of seeds acknowledges the sanctity and power of these beings to create new life.

The Tewa recognize all Indigenous peoples as seed savers, people who are acting as guardians of the seeds that are passed down from one generation to another.


Everyone who participates brings seeds to share with others, affirming the critical importance of uncontaminated seeds, as well as the unity that is possible between all peoples.

The Tewa extend the sanctity of this day to protecting all wildlife and wild plants to sustain a way of life that began long before Europeans set foot in this country. The people believe that this is the only way they can continue to resist global food industrialization.

This is a Circle of Giving and Receiving, like no other, one that honors a way of life that sustained the Original Peoples of this country whose love and respect for their mother the Earth taught them that Nature must lead. Earth was not just their mother, but their teacher.

Had Europeans followed their example, we would not be facing the climate crisis that we are today.

What follows is what I experienced at one of the seed ceremonies (each one I attended was slightly different – Indigenous ways are flexible, attending to the present moment).

Prayers begin. The four directions and the powers of water are honored, and a large communal circle is blessed with corn pollen. A prayer for the dead is offered to those who came before. As each of us enters the circle, we sit around a handcrafted altar, situated in the center. Diminutive handmade baskets are handed out and we place a few of our seeds in our baskets. When it is our turn to enter the sacred center, we are asked to speak our names, state which of the Four Directions we come from, and what seeds we are offering for a blessing (Mine were scarlet runner beans). We move around the circle counterclockwise (the Indigenous way) leaving after adding our seeds to the other offerings. An elaborate rain dance follows filling the room with vibrant rainbow ribbons, joyful music,  and prayers that
center me so completely, that I too become part of the dance. The ceremony itself is solemn. Joy and celebration follow.


To participate in such a ceremony is a gift. The seed exchange occurs afterwards with people choosing small envelopes full of seeds grown by others. Plants are shared. A feast has been prepared for all the participants. Three women speak about the hope that comes with the seeds. How each contains new life, and that each seed is a miracle, a perspective that is also my own.

For a person like me who has been something of an “earth mother” tending to and saving seeds for all my adult life, this ceremony felt like the first public acknowledgment and recognition of the critical importance of seed saving throughout a lifetime.

I believe that seeds of hope are planted with each act of sharing – seeding a kinder more compassionate way of being on this Earth. If there is hope for humanity, we will find it here.

Hours after finishing this article, I turned on my computer and read that a woman who is offering a class that I cannot afford remembers the Abenaki stories I told her 30 years ago and is offering me a free class as a gift!

For some of us, the circle remains unbroken.

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