By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
This year’s Cherokee Youth Garden at Kituwah is not only outside of the box; it’s outside of the lines. The outside rows of the garden are laid out in various traditional Cherokee patterns as opposed to straight rows.
“We’re trying to go from the straight row method to something more meaningful, more interesting,” said Karrie Joseph, one of the coordinators of the Healthy Roots grant which is helping facilitate this year’s garden.
She said the 10 youth gardeners all put in 12 hours a week at the 1/3 acre garden for which they are paid. “They are learning about the plants. They are learning about the bugs…how you interact with your environment matters and that’s one thing we’re trying to teach them.”
Some of the things being grown in this year’s garden includes: watermelons, three types of corn, pumpkins, candy roasters, October beans, eggplant, tomatoes, sunflowers and more.
“We want to increase access and availability of traditional foods,” said Joseph.
The installation of the patterns were designed and laid out by NativeScapes which is owned by EBCI tribal member Pat Oocumma.
“This is the Mother Town,” she said. “This is where we started. We wanted to make a garden that was culturally relevant.”
The patterns are worked in using organic straw and biodegradable burlap. “We put nothing in here that was anything other than organic.”
Ty Oocumma, Pat’s son, is a member of the Warriors of Anikituwah and works with his mother at NativeScapes. He related that his thoughts on the designs came from thinking about water’s role in Cherokee culture as well as thinking about circles and traditional dances. Some of the patterns include a snake, rivers, and a traditional corn sifter.
“I came down and talked to the kids a couple of weeks ago and gave them background on the geometric shapes,” noted Ty who said he helped design the outsides of the garden and the youth were given the middle portion to design. “We’re just trying to show the kids that traditional, linear rows don’t have to always be that way.”
“There is meaning behind this, and we’re just trying to show the kids that they can still do this. They don’t have to go to a grocery store to get their produce.”
Avery Guy, 14, one of the youth gardeners, commented, “It was a good idea so we can learn gardening and learn how people lived a long time ago.”
The Cherokee Youth Gardeners sell their produce every Thursday from 11am – 1pm in the back parking lot of the Cherokee Indian Hospital. All of the proceeds go back into the program.