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2020 Updates: Devon G. Peña and The Acequia Institute

July 6, 2020

As part of our 2020 updates about Farm Together Now featured farmers, we are sharing these updates from Devon G. Peña of The Acequia Institute in San Luis Colorado. We would also like to dedicate this post to Joe C. Gallegos who passed away in December of 2016. Gallegos was interviewed in Farm Together Now with Pena and was a pillar in the community. 

2020 Updates from The Acequia Institute:

“Our work at The Acequia Institute (TAI) is blossoming and there is so much going on I can only highlight a few things here:


  1. TAI is now a “grow-out operator” for a Seed Rematriation Project to preserve and return bioregional landrace varieties of corn, bean squash, peas, and orach unique to the Upper Rio Grande communities of San Luis and Ortiz, CO, Taos Pueblo, Vadito, and other New Mex. locales. We have about 3 acres at three different sites (to separate the maize varieties) and these will be returned as seedstock to replenish acequia farmers in these communities of origin and diversification.
  2. TAI is also hosting a high altitude hemp production experiment. This involves “Red Kross” a native landrace heirloom that has been grown by Native American tribes for decades and is used as traditional medicine. Red Kross is a 80-100 day auto-flower variety and is drought resistant and apparently adapted to high elevation and extreme hardiness. That is the experiment: How will it do at our new field in San Francisco, CO at 8100′? The project is made possible by our allies, Lightning Horse and Bill Nesbitt of Pacific Northwest Indigenous Farmers, LLC in Oregon.
  3. We now have an Executive Director, Buffy Turner (Cherokee) who is leading two major projects: (1) The convening of a council of advisors to begin planning the transformation of TAI from a simple 501(c)(3) into an inter-tribal land trust. We are rematriating the 181 acres of land along with water rights and the conservation easement at the TAI almunyah to a four nation council consisting of members from all the Indigenous peoples with attachments and heritage claims to the San Luis Valley. These include Caputa Ute, Dine (Navajo), Tewa (Taos Pueblo), and Xicanx/Genizaro (varied Mexican-origin) peoples. Two-spirit people are playing a major role in this council. (2) The launching of a capital campaign to construct a series of adobe buildings to house Institute headquarters, seed sanctuary, classrooms, and dorms centered around a traditional ceremonial placita (communal square).
  4. Representing TAI as part of a UN certified delegation sponsored by the Asociacion Andes, I was a co-author and facilitator of the Ek Balam Declaration, a manifesto to protect the sacred in corn, and which was presented to the 13th COP of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Cancun, Mexico (Dec. 2016). This grew out of the earlier work of the Voces de Maiz/Voices of Maize network which included collaboration with the “Braiding the Sacred” group, another network of Indigenous corn protectors. The Ek Balam Declaration was followed with an invitation to submit a Strategy Brief to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues which we did in April 2017.”

Here are some photos to accompany update, from the final stage planting of the Rematriation Milpa #1 at Rancho Chiquito (San Francisco, CO). Native land race hemp variety known as “Red Kross” used in traditional medicine across Turtle Island. In partnership with the Northwest Naive American Farmers, LLC (Oregon).


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