Indigenous peoples and communities have long used stories to understand the world and our place in it. Seedcast is a story-centered podcast by Nia Tero and a special monthly column produced in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald about nurturing and rooting stories of the Indigenous experience.
One of my earliest memories is of my grandfather waking up every morning before the sun came up. I was born in 1969 and in my early years, before my mother married my father, we lived with my grandparents. By the time I was maybe 4 or 5, my grandfather had retired. He had served in World War II in the motor pool in the South Pacific, and then, when he came to Seattle, he got a job at the Naval shipyards down on the piers here in the sound, later working with the transportation department until his retirement in the early ’70s. He came from a family of tenant farmers who migrated to the Northwest from the South who were used to working on the land. Their work ethic never left him.
Southeast of Seattle, in unincorporated King County near Auburn, sits a nearly 39-acre parcel of wild land and outbuildings. Currently called the Red Barn Ranch and owned by Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR), the property has been everything from a summer camp to a conference center to a farming education program. For the last three years, though, it’s sat empty. To some Black leaders in Seattle, this property could be exactly what the community needs to move toward an equitable model for Black-led land ownership that helps the Black community thrive.
Several community voices have been lobbying since the summer of 2020 for the City of Seattle to transfer the Red Barn Ranch property to Black ownership. Who the land is sold to is ultimately up to SPR, but a leading candidate to take on the task of stewarding the land is Nurturing Roots, an urban farm located in Beacon Hill.
“People have asked me if I wanted to own it, but no, I want it to be all of ours,” said Nyema Clark, the founder and director of Nurturing Roots, during an interview with the Emerald in October. “All of us should have a share, and that share should never be able to be sold. You could pass it down to other generations, but you couldn’t make money off of it. We want to make a legitimate model that lasts.”