Bear Island Flint Corn is a type of corn that was grown in our northern climate by the Anishinaabe people before white people came here. Colonization forced the Anishinaabe away from their traditional lives and onto reservations. This process also caused the Anishinaabe to stop growing their traditional corn, and over time the seeds were lost to them. Some of the seeds were saved by the government though, and have been maintained in the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System.
In 2013 we applied to get some Bear Island Flint Corn from the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System. We also received some Bear Island Flint Corn from Zachary Paige at the indigenous Farming Conference in 2015. since then we have been growing this corn, saving the seeds, and sharing it with others in our area with hopes to expand that available seed. We have built a small network of Bear Island Flint Corn growers in our area and we all mix our seed together every year in order to promote genetic diversity and keep the corn from becoming inbred.
In 2018 we had finally built up enough healthy seed to fulfill our goal of returning some Bear Island Flint Corn to a family who had lost the corn in the process of colonization.
James Gawboy lives on a farm with his wife Rebecca Gawboy. Bear Island Flint Corn was the type of corn his mother grew. Sadly the Bear Island Flint Corn that his family had grown was lost, and James had not been able to find a new source for the seeds of this corn when he wanted to try growing it.
On a beautiful spring day in May of 2018, our network of Bear Island Flint Corn growers were able to gift James and Rebecca Gawboy with enough Bear Island Flint Corn that they were able to start growing it on their farm. This was a surreal moment, where we were able to heal one tiny, yet significant, wound of colonization. In the photo you can see the first time James held the Bear Island Flint Corn since he was young and his mother had grown it. It was an emotional moment for all of us.
Since then the Gawboy’s have been growing Bear Island Flint Corn on their farm. Rebecca loves to cook and has made many yummy treats with the corn. They have been wildly successful with the corn, as you can see in this photo. We hope that we will be able to continue to share these seeds with more families who have lost access to this seed, while also feeding our families with this delicious, nutritious, and very special corn.