Seeding the future at Kayanase

Kayanase is restoring Mother Earth, one seed at a time. The nursery and seed repository was originally birthed out of the protests and subsequent negotiations concerning the construction of the Red Hill Expressway in Hamilton with the Confederacy Council.

Part of that agreement was that Six Nations would get the contract to reforest the area after the highway was built.

That launched a number of projects that would facilitate the work of reforesting the area, financed in part through the negotiated agreement. Forestry programs were started with government funding through the Trees of Ontario Project and were administered locally through Grand River Employment and Training, which spawned the state-of-the-art greenhouse, nursery and seed repository which was constructed on Highway #54 in 2010.
“Our organization is about restoring Mother Earth holistically, through the collection of native seeds, to seed processing, seed propagation, planting, monitoring and eventually back to healthful biodiversity,” states the new Kayanase website.

When the reforestation of the Valley was ready to go, so was Kayanase. Several Six Nations trained forestry workers began the chore of collecting seeds, planting seedlings and maintaining them.

“The Red Hill Valley project is what Kayanase is known for,” says acting general manager, Cathy Smith. “Right now we are working with the City of Hamilton and the joint stewardship board to revitalize large areas of the valley floor.”

In September, the Kayanase crew will be spraying for different invasive species within the valley, as well as planting new trees, native to this region.

“Everything here at Kayanase is local. Local trees from local seeds,” she says.

A tour of the facility shows every step of the process, from seed to sapling, all under the watchful eyes of trained staff. The first thing one notices is how large the facility actually is.

Large cooler areas control the timing of the germinated seeds and sprouts until the appropriate time when they can be safely planted in the wild. But fulfilling the need for the Red Hill Valley revitalization project isn’t the only purpose of Kayanase. It also supplies landscapers – professional and private – with healthy native trees and plants at a reasonable price.

“Some people come here to buy specific seeds from us for their own purposes,” says Smith.

Landscape technician and propagation specialist Kali Hill explained how the coolers mimic Mother Earth’s usual dormant winters and how, when they are brought into the greenhouse, they simulate spring and early summer, encouraging growth. The process is so balanced they can predict the exact time when the seeds or sprouts are most receptive to being planted in the ground.

Kayanase recently hosted a traditional tobacco workshop, with Delmor Jacobs teaching the participants about the history, importance and the many uses of traditional tobacco. Participants were able to plant their own tobacco and store it at the greenhouse where the Kayanase staff watered and cared for these plants until they were ready to transplant them into their own gardens.

Kayanase has begun open house tours of the facility to help educate the public about what they do, and about the importance of protecting native species.

“One such project involves the reestablishment of the once prolific Milkweed plant, which is also nurtured and sold here to help restore the Monarch Butterfly populations that have been declining in recent times,” says Smith.

Kayanase has been supplying the reforestation materials for the former Kanonhstaton Douglas Creek Estates lands; for Burtch, reforestation, easement landscaping along Highway 407, Confederation Park, Six Nations Police Station and GREAT. Workers there have also planted for local community members.

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