“Doomsday Vault” Gets Meaningful Heirloom Seeds From Cherokee Nation

The nickname “doomsday vault” for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault sounds ominous, but the vault has an incredibly hopeful purpose.

Built in Norway, it holds precious seeds from all over the world, safeguarding the DNA of a diversity of plants that can withstand many different types of climate, soil, and water, according to The Verge.


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The purpose of this collection is an anticipation of a possibility that whatever changes hit the world, there will still be an opportunity for life to persist.

The Vault is managed by an international nonprofit organization called Crop Trust, in conjunction with the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre. In 2017, the supposedly impenetrable vault was tested in a somewhat ironic fashion: melting permafrost entered an access tunnel. it froze before reaching any of the Vault’s contents, but the incident showed how climate change can hit from any direction. Waterproofing and improved cooling systems cost Norway 20 million Euros, but the work has been completed.

On Monday, a deposit of new seeds was made for the first time since the upgrade. The deposit included seeds from over 36 different groups, from countries like Thailand, the US, Ireland, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, and Lebanon, numbering 60,000 seeds altogether.

One of the most significant contributions came from the Cherokee Nation, the first tribe based in the U.S. to make a deposit, including seeds from the Cherokee White Eagle Corn, a sacred heirloom varietal carried by the tribe since the Trail of Tears forced them off their land.

Other varietals—which all predate European settlement—include the Cherokee Long Greasy Beans, Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans, Cherokee Turkey Gizzard black and brown beans, and Cherokee Candy Roaster Squash.

“This is history in the making, and none of it could have been possible without the hard work of our staff and the partnership with the team in Norway,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. in a statement. “It is such an honor to have a piece of our culture preserved forever. Generations from now, these seeds will still hold our history and there will always be a part of the Cherokee Nation in the world.”

Since 2008, the Vault has amassed one million seeds covering more than 5,000 species.

Alison Sullivan

Written by Alison Sullivan