Seed, Q&A

Q&A With Lucy Grignon

Forging editors

Jun 23, 2023

In this Q&A with 2023 Forge Project Fellow Lucy Grignon, Forging editors ask the Stockbridge-Munsee educator and operator of Ancient Roots Homestead about seed-saving, traditional foodways, and how she sees her work as part of her community's greater history.

Beans in a starlike shape

Many Trails symbol out of Stockbridge-Munsee beans.

Q: Can you explain what the symbol is in your photograph and what it means to the Stockbridge-Munsee Community?

A: The symbol of Many Trails represents the many trails our ancestors traveled to get to where we are today. It symbolizes endurance, strength, and hope. We are the People of the Waters Who are Never Still. Today you will find that symbol on our tribal seal, on signs, and all around the community, as a constant reminder of our story.

Q: What does it symbolize to you personally?

A: The symbol reminds me of strength. I come from a long line of ancestors who are resilient and strong, full of deep history. Their stories inspire me to research and learn more.

Q: Why have you chosen to picture this symbol in this way?

A: The picture shows the Many Trails symbol shaped with our traditional Stockbridge-Munsee Beans. The idea for the photo came to me in a dream. I remember picking some dry beans from the garden, opening them up, admiring each bean and its beauty, and laying them on a flat surface. I looked down, and the beans were placed in the shape of a Many Trails symbol. My father, daughter, husband, and ancestors were right there beside me. I decided to re-create the image, because I could still imagine how vivid those Stockbridge Beans were in the dream. Dreams are powerful and filled with meaning.

A person stands in front of a group of people sitting at picnic tables

Lucy Grignon (Stockbridge-Munsee) presenting on her work with Ancient Roots Homestead to Sky High Farm at Forge Project in June 2022.

Q: How has seed-saving connected you to your heritage and your community?

A: Seed-saving has brought me back to my roots. It has taught me a more sustainable way of life—growing your own food, preserving it, and sharing it feels really positive and heartfelt. Seed-Saving was the first of many workshops I teach. Educating about seed-saving has led me to create other workshops for my community to enjoy, share, and learn from.

My workshops involve intergenerational teachings and learnings. All ages have something to share and teach. When we learn from everyone—elder, small, or in between—generations of teachings are revealed. Some workshops I have created for our community include seed-saving; preserving food through freezing, dehydrating, and pickling; holistic healing with our plant medicines; garden planning; wild leek salt; foraging; bee keeping; fruit leather, jams, traditional teas, and more!

Above all, this way of life has taught me so much. Despite all the challenges we have faced, we work toward our Indigenous practices to bring them back, use them, and honor them daily. We do this by reclaiming and restoring our traditional ways of connecting and living; renewing our special commitments to each generation; keeping these traditions alive and well; understanding and remembering who we are, never forgetting; living a life of strong purpose; and connecting to our Ancient Roots.

Q: Which seeds are most representative of the SMC and Mohican histories?

A: Stockbridge-Munsee Beans (pictured), Lenape Blue Corn, and Lenape White Corn. I have been diving into the histories of our seeds. There is always more research to be done. Our findings have been really incredible! Journals from tribal elders have mentioned returning to the homelands and visiting with tribes around the area to find out they had saved some of our seeds and returned them to our people.

Thankfully, our people have worked hard over the years to grow out our Traditional Seed Relatives. Throughout the years, our seeds have truly had an amazing journey. They have traveled many trails to be planted in the soil today.

The more I research about how our ancestors used these foods, the more creative I feel in the kitchen. When I use Indigenous ingredients in the kitchen, I can feel the ancestors, especially my Momma Bear, alongside me—proud, joyful, and smiling. After all, food is medicine! We rely on each other for protection and nourishment, much like the Three Sisters: Corn, Beans, and Squash. We need one another working together to survive and thrive. Together, we tell a beautiful story!

Q: How do you see what you do as part of that legacy?

A: At Ancient Roots Homestead, we connect our community to ancestral knowledge of Indigenous ways of life. Focusing on traditional teachings, language, storytelling, music, art, oral traditions, gardening, gathering, seed-saving, food-preserving, writing, documenting, educating, photography, workshops, and more! In our daily work, we are thinking of what our seven generations have done before us and how we will leave it for the next seven. We are mindful of how we document, share, and pass teachings onto the future.

Q: What would you like people to know about traditional food ways in Mohican culture?

A: Our Seed Relatives have so much to teach us, we just have to offer love and listen. Seeds understand us and are forgiving. Every time we plant a seed, good energy flows out, nourishing the world.

Thinking back to where our homestead started, we were focused on food sovereignty and food security because of the pandemic. We wanted to live a better life, one more sustainable and closer to the way our ancestors lived. I wanted to know where our food comes from. I did not want to rely on going to the store to buy our food. I wanted to create a garden because we want to be able to feed our families, friends, and communities. We want to inspire others to do the same.

Q: What do these seeds mean to you and your community?

A: We are able to hold these seeds in our hands today because our ancestors kept them safe. The seeds are filled with love, understanding, food, prayers, songs, stories, and deep history. We share a genetic lineage with similar growing conditions of the seeds. If it was important to my ancestors' daily life then I want to make sure to include those teachings in my daily living. I want to share what I learn with others, so these traditions are never forgotten.

Q: What would you say to your community about this work?

A: We recognize connections to our Indigenous roots come in many forms, from our language journey to the stories of our elders, our people, and our healing. As we take time to heal ourselves, the people around us heal. We heal for the ancestors who have come before us and the ancestors who will come after us.

Return to our ancestral homelands, seek connection, dig your bare feet into the earth, and feel those strong connections to your ancestors, the land, plants, medicines, animals, and all things. We are all connected! Find your sacred space to feel safe and heal, and the rest will follow!

Lucille Grignon operates Ancient Roots Homestead in Bowler, Wisconsin. She works to connect her community, Stockbridge-Munsee Community, to ancestral knowledge of Indigenous ways of life.

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