Food Is Our Medicine | Native Plants & Landscaping Projects
The Native Landscape Of The William Seneca Administration Building
The landscape surrounding the William Seneca Administration Building has been redesigned to accurately reflect the history of the Seneca Nation. It now will be a living narrative of our Seneca culture and most importantly a demonstration of our connection to the land.
Historically, the predominant native landscape of Western New York was originally deciduous hardwood forests made up of Oaks, Red & Sugar Maples, Elms, Tulip Trees and Dogwoods. The forest floor was comprised of a myriad of native shrubs and indigenous wildflowers and grasses that formed the backbone of Seneca life in the forest. Within this natural world we were supplied with all that was needed to sustain life by providing shelter and abundant food from plants and animals.
By reimagining the face of our Administration Building, we have been able to take a step towards creating a landscape that speaks to the wealth of the forest and our history as Seneca people.
Careful consideration has been given to selecting plants that are significant to our Seneca culture. These local indigenous plants would have been used to create our shelters and longhouses. We have included native species that would have supplied our people with food, medicine, fiber, dyes and the plants used for our ceremonies.
New Native Plant Policy
In March of 2014, the Seneca Nation’s Tribal Council unanimously approved a policy ensuring that new landscape plantings in public spaces on Seneca lands will be exclusively comprised of local indigenous species. This new policy will have far-reaching effects for all Seneca Nation members. The use of indigenous species is not a new concept for the Nation. Aided by the dedicated work of Food Is Our Medicine’s Community Garden Committee, Youth Committee, and Elders’ Circle members:
- Non-indigenous Norway Maple trees are currently being removed
- Native Sugar Maples have been replanted in their place
- Newly constructed Roundabout at HWY# 5 and #20, Irving NY will feature local indigenous flora
Around the Cattaraugus Territory’s William Seneca Administration Building, all non-Native species have been removed, 446 Native trees and shrubs have been planted, and a minimum of 25 different indigenous trees and shrubs have been reintroduced to the environment.
Why is the new planting policy so important? No other U.S. Native tribe has established and formally enacted an indigenous plant policy. In doing so, the Seneca Nation has demonstrated its commitment to continuing and expanding efforts to reintroduce Native species to Seneca territories. The Seneca Nation and its planting policy can serve as a model for other Native Nations as they work to reintroduce the species that have, for so long, played a secondary role in the life and health of many indigenous peoples.
It may seem that cultivation of indigenous species is a long way from food sovereignty, but the two are inextricably linked. For millennia, Native peoples – including the Seneca – lived in harmony with the land. The natural seasons formed the cycle of life and gave health and vigor to the children of Mother Earth. In recent centuries, this bond has been fractured and many Native people no longer look to the earth for their sustenance and their strength. The new planting policy will pave the way for all Seneca people to return to the wisdom of the Ancestors, to an increased reliance on Native species as sources of food and medicine. The policy will allow Seneca members not to establish, but to re-establish, a healthier way of living by re-establishing a healthier way of eating.
With this new planting policy, The Seneca Nation has taken a substantial step forward in preserving Seneca culture and protecting and maintaining the Community’s ecological footprint.
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