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Taylor Keen is a business professor at Creighton University. He is also a member of the Omaha Tribe in Nebraska and the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. His passion is to bring back and preserve the indigenous vegetable crops of his ancestors and revive the traditions around growing and eating them.
He transformed a small plot in his backyard into a functional farmstead, raising corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers from sacred Native American seeds.
"And to watch them grow, see them reach pollination time and to learn about hand pollination, all the lovely little creatures from the insect nation who came to visit, and Grandmother Spider, it was just a wonder re-awakening," says Keen. "And it changed me."
That was five years ago. Since then, Keen launched a project called “Sacred Seed” to extend education about Native American culture, indigenous plants, and soil methods to other areas of the country. He includes teachings from an old memoir among Missouri river tribes on raising corn.
"What the tribes planted, how they planted, the different types of corn and how they braided them and threshed them or dried them out, down to actual designs of say, an Omaha plot," he says. "The Omaha’s had a 4th sister, the sunflower, and how they ringed rectangular or square gardens with these, even down to the angle of the mounds so that they would receive optimal sunlight."