Ekvn-Yefolecv maintains that as a traditionally agrarian Indigenous society, we must fixate our contemporary lifeways on regenerative agriculture in order to successfully prolong our language. Anywhere from chatting about the daily behaviors of animals and crops to discussing our collective responsibilities to them, agricultural discourse enables our ancient Maskoke lexicon to flourish in the ecovillage.
Lake sturgeon are a culturally significant species to Maskoke People, but a combination of factors, including the erection of hydroelectric dams in the Coosa River, led to their extirpation. In 2017, residents of Ekvn-Yefolecv traveled to Anishinaabe homelands (what is colonially known as Ontario, Canada) to spawn the fish, and return embryos back to our homelands to be hatched and grown out. On Earth Day in 2020, we released the first group of sturgeon back into the Coosa watershed.
Child and elders engage in egg de-adhesion during sturgeon spawn
Preparing for sturgeon spawn
Juvenile sturgeon in Ekvn-Yefolecv’s aquaculture facility
Releasing sturgeon back into the watershed
Our aquaculture facility pumps water into culturing tanks from the lower hypolimnion of a 12-acre onsite lake and returns the water back to the lake via gravity flow. Suspended material in the water column (namely fish waste) serves as the nutrient source for growing healthy vegetables and herbs in the greenhouse. One of the biggest threats to the survival of the Maskoke language is poor health. Too many elder language bearers suffer from chronic illnesses, namely diabetes and hypertension, and leave this world prematurely, taking the language with them. Ekvn-Yefolecv is committed to actively decolonizing our diets to ensure that ecovillage residents, especially elders and children, have healthy minds and bodies to effectively revitalize our Maskoke language!
Sturgeon release day
Ekvn-Yefolecv’s aquaculture facility and greenhouse
Learning traditional agricultural knowledge from the elders
Planting and harvesting is an essential part of Ekvn-Yefolecv's school ciriculum
Language immersion inside the aquaponics greenhouse
Prior to colonization, an estimated 2-4 million bison inhabited lands east of the Mississippi River. Buffalo were obliterated from traditional Maskoke homelands even before the forced removal of Maskoke People. Ekvn-Yefolecv is committed to returning buffalo to our traditional Maskoke homelands to be stewarded with holistic management (intensive rotational grazing) to improve soil health. Residents of the ecovillage are building silvopasture (intentionally integrating trees, forage and grazing animals on the same land) primarily for carbon sequestration and an improved small scale hydrological cycle.
In addition to being a staple ingredient in our earthen plaster recipe, buffalo manure is combined with food scraps and inserted into biodigesters for anaerobic digestion; as decomposition generates methane gas, ecovillage residents utilize the gas for cooking.
Buffalo herd stewarded by Ekvn-Yefolecv
Attempting to keep buffalo out of the neighbor's pasture
Building pasture fences
Collecting bison manure for the biodigester
Cooking with biogas
Buffalo hanging out on a ridge
The American Guinea Hog is a breed unique to traditional Maskoke homelands, and one that our ancestors interacted with before forced removal. In 2006, however, there remained only about 55 known guinea hogs (26 of them were viable to be bred), and today the breed is classified by the Livestock Conservancy as Threatened. Ekvn-Yefolecv is committed to supporting the conservation of this heritage breed, which in addition to being a staple part of ecovillage food sovereignty efforts, they are also integral to restoring soil health through a rotational grazing system. The guinea hog lineages at Ekvn-Yefolecv originated from breeders Sandee House and Holly Hamm at Friday Farms, and they are descendants of a variety of the founding progenitor hogs that were used to breed as a concerted effort to save the American Guinea Hog from extinction. They represent diverse phenotypes including big and small boned, curly and straight hair, longer and shorter noses etc. The abundance of nutritious lard in these woods-foraging animals is incorporated into Ekvn-Yefolecv's commitment to a healthy diet, and is used for making lye soap and candles. The calm and docile personalities of the guinea hogs are ideal for our language immersion students to have a daily hands-on experience in their agricultural responsibilities. Most importantly, observing the amusing behaviors of the hogs generates rich and humorous dialogue in the Maskoke language.
Partnering with the guinea hogs to till the garden; they love the forage
He awaits rotation to the next pasture with plenty of forage
Language immersion students enjoy their daily hands-on responsibilities to the gentle guinea hogs
Ekvn-Yefolecv stewards a flock of Australorp chickens, which come from a line that has been remarkably bred by Pat Whitaker for the purpose of expressing their best, natural genetics. What does this mean? The breeders, as chicks, were raised by mother hens. These chicks foraged with their mothers in protected deciduous forests, in low stress environments. Their feed, which supplemented their forage, was monitored closely to complement their natural diet. Even as chicks, much of their time was spent within the larger flock family. In this multifaceted environment they are able to develop their potential for growth, egg production and ability to function as a part of the flock, with all of their complexities and unique behaviors. A heritage name does not simply make a chicken "heritage"; rather, it requires the merging of genetics and environmental input. Given a confined environment, absent of flock membership, stress and poor nutrition, most of the wonderful traits that these birds were bred for, will be absent. Ekvn-Yefolecv relies on these birds for both meat and non-GMO, soy-free eggs as staple sources of protein in the ecovillage diet. Caring for the chickens is among the daily agricultural responsibilities required of Maskoke language immersion students. Harvesting and processing is a communal activity.