SHIPROCK — A local project aimed at saving seeds was the subject of one of the presentations made at the Food Sovereignty and Traditional Knowledge Gathering for Climate Change Resiliency on Friday at the Shiprock Chapter house.

Zefren Anderson is a member of the Middle San Juan Seed Bank, a group working to establish a community-based seed bank in order to preserve the genetic diversity of seeds used in the region. The group is also interested in collecting stories about the seeds, such as whether they were handed down from generation to generation, and the methods used to preserve seeds.

As part of Anderson's presentation, he shared a story about finding seeds his grandmother stored in a glass jar, which remained unused for 25 years. He said he planted some of the seeds in his family field and, of those planted, 90 percent were viable.

The knowledge his grandmother used to preserve the seeds is important, he said, but unfortunately, methods like the one his grandmother used are becoming lost.

“We can’t forget how much power our seeds have in our existence, in our living,” Anderson said.

The focus on seeds was part of a number of presentations made at the two-day gathering.

In addition, attendees on Friday heard from members of the International Indian Treaty Council, an organization working for the sovereignty and self-determination of indigenous peoples.

The organization also works for the recognition and protection of indigenous rights, treaties, traditional cultures and sacred lands.

Roberto Borrero, a program consultant with the organization, talked about efforts to raise the visibility of indigenous peoples in the discussion surrounding climate change.

The council worked with other groups to ensure that indigenous peoples participated in the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, he said. He said a questionnaire was handed out during the conference, and the results showed 98 percent of participants agreed they have seen the impacts of climate change on their weather, food systems and land base.

Borrero, a Taino tribe member from Puerto Rico, said governments are good at talking about how to respect indigenous rights, but there is little action unless pressure is applied.

Throughout the UN conference, he said officials were reminded that when they enter into discussions, they needed to "remember indigenous peoples are at the forefront of climate change."

Perry Charley, a senior scientist at Diné College, continued the climate change focus and tied his presentation to Shiprock.

At one point, Charley asked participants to think about how traffic has increased in the community. A result of that traffic is an increase in greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, which contributes to poor air quality, he said.

"We need to change our attitude because we are the contributors," Charley said.

The gathering concluded Saturday, and the agenda listed demonstrations about native and medicinal plants, blue corn mush, and indigenous farming, canning and preserving foods.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.

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