By Matthaei-Nichols Associate Curator Dr. David C. Michener

The future grows from seeds. The future is rooted in the past. How are cultural seeds long-stored at our University part of the future? Of all seeds, which need to be grown at Matthaei-Nichols for Michigan’s sustainable future?

This traditional white flint corn is the tallest of the corns, beans, squash, Potawatomie watermelons, sunflowers and sacred tobacco growing in our Anishinabe Collaborative Garden. These plants are members of four Tribal Nations of Michigan, and working together we are all seeking a new way to a sustainable future. In the past several years, over 100 University, Tribal and community members have met in called-meetings, always opened and closed in Ceremony by Elders. (Pictured below: participants in the heritage seed planting day.)

Guided by Elders, on the last day of May’s lunar cycle more than 30 Tribal partners, Nature Academy Interns, Matthaei-Nichols, and UM staff and several volunteers planted the garden. Antler rakes and shoulder blade hoes prepared the mounds. Women planted seeds that they had moistened in their mouths. Men planted the Sacred Tobacco. When all was done we had a simple feast. Nature Academy Intern Brooke Callaghan stewarded the garden this summer. There is much to say. Stay tuned – there will be a harvest and feast!

This garden reflects more than 18 years of trust and relationship building among many, many partners and supporters. The way forward can only open with good people, good works, and good resources. If you would like to know how you can help, please contact David Michener ( or Meredith Olsen (