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Rural Oklahoma students await return of Choctaw Nation heirloom seeds from space

With the help of Boeing and Oklahoma State University, Choctaw Nation heirloom seeds were sent out last November on SpaceX’s 29th Commercial Resupply Services mission. Seeds of Sweet potato squash (isito), Smith peas (tobi), flour corn (tanchi tohbi), lambsquarter greens (tvnishi), and Choctaw peas (chukfi) were sent to outer space.
NASA
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Choctaw Nation Growing Hope Program
With the help of Boeing and Oklahoma State University, Choctaw Nation heirloom seeds were sent out last November on SpaceX’s 29th Commercial Resupply Services mission. Seeds of Sweet potato squash (isito), Smith peas (tobi), flour corn (tanchi tohbi), lambsquarter greens (tvnishi), and Choctaw peas (chukfi) were sent to outer space.

Seeds of Sweet potato squash (isito), Smith peas (tobi), flour corn (tanchi tohbi), lambsquarter greens (tvnishi), and Choctaw peas (chukfi), traveled with Choctaw families to Oklahoma from their ancestral homelands on the Trail of Tears.

Now, the Choctaw Nation’s Growing Hope seed bank has sent seeds from these traditional plants for a science experiment on the International Space Station. With the help of Boeing and Oklahoma State University, they were sent out last November on SpaceX’s 29th Commercial Resupply Services mission.

After the seeds come back to earth, students from Jones Academy in Eastern Oklahoma will plant them side by side with seeds that stayed on the ground. The project will test a hypothesis to see whether the seeds’ exposure to space affects their growth.

Jacqueline Putman is a program coordinator with the seed bank. She says this is more than a STEM project because it is also helping the students connect with Choctaw culture.

“We want them interested in our seed program, interested in our history, our culture, who they are, where we come from and why this is so important that these seeds came on that Trail of Tears, our ancestors had to get us here, to we have seeds in the heavens now,” she said.

Putman said the students will monitor their growth rate to see how the seeds may grow differently when exposed to the elements of outer space.


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Britny Cordera has been StateImpact Oklahoma's environment and science reporter since July 2023.
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