Native Heirloom Garden


The Native Heirloom Garden features plants domesticated by Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. The garden includes edible crops, such as corn, beans, and squash. The garden also has plant species with non-food uses. Red amaranth may be used as a dye for cotton cloth; gourds may be used for ceremonial rattles; and devil's claw, a curved pod with a dark skin, may be peeled and woven into baskets as decoration.

Plants in the garden vary from year to year, depending on the availability of seeds. Success is largely dependent on the weather. Typically, plantings include Hopi blue and Cochiti corn, Hopi black pinto, O'odham tepary, and scarlet runner beans, squash and pumpkins from villages across the Southwest, Hopi and Ácoma rattle gourds, quinoa, Zuñi tomatillos, mixed sunflowers, Zapotec tomatoes, and perennial Hopi tea. Clay vessels called ollas are filled and buried among the plants to provide them with a slow and steady seep of water at their roots.

The Native Heirloom Garden was first planted in 2018, under the guidance of Eric Polingyouma of the Bluebird Clan, Shungopavi Village, who also provided the seeds. Because growing conditions at Willow Bend differ so much from those at Hopi, volunteers use gardening strategies that are not ordinarily used in traditional dryland farming. In 2021, Eagle Scout, Mason Takeuchi, and his team dug in compost from Mason's on-site compost bins together with amendments including gypsum, sand, and organic fertilizer. Volunteers plant and tend the garden all summer, and display and share the harvest on a Science Saturday in the fall. When possible, they save seeds to plant the following year or exchange them for other seeds from traditional farmers.


Eric Polingyouma and volunteer Bob Baer plant corn kernels soaked in water that morning.



Eagle Scout Mason Takeuchi leads a team of Scouts in amending the garden with compost and organic additives.



 Earthenware ollas provide water at depth.



Hopi rattle gourds.