Current Workshop Descriptions & Dates
Chasing Seeds: The Incredible Story of Our Ancient Crops
The First of a Series of Workshops on Wabanaki Crops, Agriculture and Cuisine
with Frederick M. Wiseman, PhD
Wednesday, September 2nd 6-9pm
$17/$15 for members
Food plants that are raised in the environments where they originated are better adapted to the soil water and climate — and are often more nutritious than crops imported from elsewhere. Learn about twenty fascinating food plants developed by the Wabanakis, Northern New England’s Native peoples. More than ever, we need to disconnect ourselves from the international trade in exotic grains, vegetables and condiments, and reconnect with food that is of our old soil. Not only are these Indigenous Wabanaki crops good to eat, they represent acknowledgement of the accomplishments of Vermont’s and New Hampshire’s almost forgotten Native communities. Although these foodstuffs have just been rediscovered and gathered in one place, the implications are immense — for food justice & sovereignty, the evolution of Northern temperate-zone permaculture, and even our paleo, localvore, gluten-free and food-as-medicine diets.
Dr. Wiseman was trained as a Paleoethnobotanist at the University of Arizona’s Laboratory for Paleoenvironmental Studies. He has published numerous articles and book chapters on agriculture and cultural paleoecology of the Maya Civilization of Yucatan, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. In addition, he has done botanical, phytogeographic and ethnobotanical fieldwork in the American Southwest and Northwestern Mexico, especially with the Yaqui, Mayo and Tahono O’Odam (Papago) indigenous communities and their territories. After serving in the Department of Geography and Anthropology at Louisiana State University and the MIT Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology, he returned to his Vermont roots, and taught and did research at Johnson State College (Central Vermont) until his retirement in 2014. Since 1987, he has focused on the Indigenous Wabanaki people of the far Northeast, having published books, curricula and film on modern culture, prehistoric archaeology, as well as Contact Period ethnohistory politics and technology. He was also instrumental in the research and political advocacy that led to four Vermont Indigenous bands being officially recognized by the state of Vermont. His experience in Wabanaki and ethnobotanical studies has been brought to bear on the archaeological and Colonial Period ethnobotany of Vermont’s indigenous peoples and their neighbors. Since 2009, Dr. Wiseman has worked with the Koasek Abenakis of Newbury, VT and Haverhill, NH to re-configure their lost agricultural heritage. This community is unique in the Northeast, in that a significant component of their ethnic identity is bound to raising crops, and they want to amplify this trait both internally, and in their “face” to the larger Euroamerican world. Wiseman focuses not only on repatriation of germ plasm, but the historic period fish-fertilized “corn hill” mound agricultural system that supported the seed and growing plants, as well as the ritual calendar that regulated it. Wiseman teaches song, dance and ceremony as important in crop nurture as sun, rain and fertile soil. With his help, the Koasek community is reviving its interrupted deep-time agricultural system. More recently, Dr. Wiseman has been active in getting this new agricultural lore out to other Indigenous communities. In October, 2014 he gave a series of agricultural workshops sponsored by the Indian Township and Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Tribes in Maine, and in February 2015 he was invited to a summit of leaders in Indigenous agricultural development held at the capital of the Iroquois Confederacy at Onondaga, NY. He was recently honored for all of his work with the first Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Abenaki Artists’ Association. Today Fred lives with his wife Anna in the Edwardian house built by his grandfather in Swanton, VT and raises varieties of edible and ornamental plants generally thought of as sub-tropical, including nine varieties of cactus, two wisterias, two peaches, and fourteen types of magnolias.