How This Once-Extinct Squash Is Making a Comeback
In 2008, a group of archaeologists on a Menominee reservation near Green Bay, Wisconsin, made an exciting find: an 850-year-old clay vessel containing seeds from a long-extinct species of squash. Unsure whether the seeds were still viable, they donated a few to a group of students in Winnipeg and to growers on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa reservation who agreed to plant them, according to Gizmodo.
The squash crop didn’t just grow, it thrived. Now in its fifth generation, the squash—called “Gete-okosomin,” which translates to “really cool old squash” in Anishinaabe—was recently used to feed guests at the American Indian Center’s annual Giving Thanks Feast and Powwow in Chicago.
This isn’t the first time an ancient plant species has been revived: In 2005, botanical researcher Elaine Solowey revived the Judean Palm—once a staple crop in the kingdom of Judea—from 2000-year-old seeds discovered in Herod the Great’s palace, and in 2012, scientists grew a previously extinct species of flowering plant from 32,000-year-old seeds, likely buried by an Ice Age squirrel in Siberia.
Not only was the squash revived, but it's being rapidly reintegrated into some of the cultures that historically cultivated and consumed it. “Food independence and local food are important issues to Native Americans because of their history,” explains Off The Grid News. “During the 19th century the United States government was able to end Native American resistance on the frontier by destroying their food supplies. This forced the tribes onto reservations, where many of them were dependent on government handouts for food.”
So far, the squash is flourishing, and, according to Off The Grid, Winona LaDuke—an advocate for food independence for Native peoples—has been supplying seeds to more and more Native groups throughout the United States and Canada.