Back in 2008, a group of archaeologists came across an inconspicuous clay ‘ball’ jar in the vicinity of a Menominee reservation near Green Bay, Wisconsin. To their surprise, the researches found a batch of extant seeds inside the container. Consequently, the organic specimens were further analysed by carbon dating, and found to be more than 800 years old. They pertained to a rare kind of squash that was presumed to be extinct. Suffice it to say, the archaeologists didn’t give up hope, and thus distributed some of the seed specimens to expert growers who were residents of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe reservation (situated near Hayward, Wisconsin). In 2014, the results showed to be surprisingly impressive in 2014, with the initial four planted seeds giving way to around two dozen squashes with vines longer than 25 ft. The largest among these ‘lost’ vegetables enviably had the weight of over 18 lbs, while being more than 3 ft long.
Quite aptly, the seeds were named Gete-okosomin, an Anishinaabe term that more-or-less translates to ‘really cool old squash’. And given the success story of the antediluvian specimens, seeds from these vegetable crops (currently in their fifth generation) were again distributed to both the American Indian Center and a separate group of students in Winnipeg. The researchers from American Indian Center were able to grow an entirely new batch of veggies, and these succulent specimens were ceremoniously cooked for their annual Giving Thanks Feast and Powwow. As for the Winnipeg students, they have already adopted the seeds for their related course curriculum, thus opening up the possibility for further variance of the ‘mother’ specimen.
Intriguingly enough, the loss of many such seed and food varieties have their reason on the historical side of affairs. For example, in this case, the original Gete-okosomin squash cultivation might have been halted when Native Americans were forced to migrate to other parts of America. On a mass-scale, such activities led to abandonment of farmlands and pastures, thus resulting in extinction of various organic products. This unfortunate scenario was further exacerbated by the Native American dependence on US government food hand-outs that tended to eschew indigenous food items, many of which ultimately became lost over time.