December 2012

The Tesuque Pueblo Seed Bank


Emigdio Ballon


The seed is very important to native people in South, Central and North America. For thousands of years we have planted, collected and preserved seeds that have given us the ability to grow our own crops and share the seed with other Indigenous communities. As part of surviving through farming we developed techniques that can be applied in current times. To preserve seeds we used small clay containers and cylinders, which kept the seeds cool without the expenditure of energy. Next, we came up with safe and secure places to store the seeds, with the goal of providing future generations with food security.

With this history in mind, the Pueblo of Tesuque’s Department of Agriculture took the initiative to build a seed bank. This was made possible through the support of former Gov. Mark Mitchell, current Gov. Ramos Romero, Lt. Gov. Louie Hena and the 2011 and 2012 Tribal Councils.

Enormous planning and work has gone into the seed bank to accomplish this wonderful project. It was built with recyclable materials such as tires, pallets, straw bales and adobe. One of the most important aspects of the building’s construction was that it was built by the hands of people from the Pueblo of Tesuque using their traditional techniques, with guidance from architect Alfred von Bachmayr.

Seeds are a source of life. Seeds contain millions of years of biological and cultural evolution, and they are the future. Seed freedom is the basis of food freedom because seeds are the first link of the food chain. Seed freedom is threatened by genetically engineered seeds. These seeds contaminate our farms and threaten the freedom of farmers.

It is important to recognize the importance of seed preservation, which the traditional native teachings have left us. Our ancestors not only left us the techniques to preserve seeds, they also left us the message to respect the life of each organism. And they left us the seed, which in turn can provide us with food and a sustainable lifestyle.


Emigdio Ballon (Quechua) is an agronomist from Bolivia. He has been the Agriculture Director at Tesuque Pueblo, which is near Santa Fe, NM, since 2006.



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