September–October 2021

From the Editor

Connecting the Dots

Tapping into nature to forge bone-deep connections to the past.

Chris Clayton

SEVERAL STORIES in these pages highlight Minnesotans who tap into nature to forge bone-deep connections to the past. In “A Growing Movement” (page 32), Frank Bures profiles the key players in our state’s seed-saving community, including Dream of Wild Health—a farm in Hugo that aims to reconnect Indigenous people to the spiritual, culinary, and medicinal properties of native plants. Part of the nonprofit’s mission is to collect and store seeds from culturally significant plants.

The farm’s seed bank has a cool origin story that didn’t make it into Bures’s piece. In March 2000, a Potawatomi elder from Wisconsin named Cora Baker heard about Dream of Wild Health and decided to donate her personal collection of seeds to the nonprofit, which at the time was just getting off the ground. A gardener, Indigenous foods advocate, and Keeper of the Seeds in her tribal community, Baker had spent decades amassing a priceless store, including seeds from multiple varieties of squash, tomatoes, beans, and sunflowers.

Before she passed away at age 94, Baker wrote a letter of gratitude to Dream of Wild Health for carrying on her legacy. “I had prayed and prayed that someone would take this gardening up again,” she wrote. “I am very pleased to learn about your project. I feel that the Great Creator has answered my humble prayers. With the help of my great granddaughter and grandson, we set out to help you. I wish that someday the children will come to realize the importance of the garden.”

The farm has since received other seed donations—including Cherokee corn seeds that were carried on the first Trail of Tears. Dream of Wild Health now boasts the source code, so to speak, for more than 100 plant species.

Seeds aren’t the only tangible link to the past referenced in this issue. On page 10, you’ll read about an ancient portage that’s found new life as part of a restored stream project. And in “Casting Into the Past” (page 20), Youa Vang writes about the importance of the white bass to Minnesota’s Hmong anglers. This bass is similar to the so-called flat mouth fish found in Laos, the ancestral homeland for many Hmong people.

Vang’s story shows that, for some, outdoor recreation is much more than just a hobby—an idea she sums up in the following passage: “For a lot of Hmong people, it was not our choice to flee our homes and find solace in a strange new land. And while many, including my family, were not able to bring a great deal of material possessions to the United States, they were able to carry stories and traditions with them.”

And in the end, what’s more important than our shared rituals—especially those that take place outdoors?