“The Seed Keeper” is a story about Dakhóta women from many generations who are connected not only through their bloodline, but also through the seeds that they lovingly preserve to pass down to the next generations. After her husband dies, Rosalie Iron Wing finds herself both a widow and orphan and leaves the family farm to make a pilgrimage to her childhood cabin which is now empty and in disrepair. It is during her time in isolation that she yearns for connection with her relatives. Following her father’s death, Rosalie was placed in a foster system without an attempt to reunite or even notify other living relatives. All these years later, with help from an old family acquaintance, she finds her great-aunt, Darlene Kills Deer, in a nursing home nearby. It is in her visits with Darlene that Rosalie learns about her mother, and the women who came before her, forced from their land in the 1862 US-Dahkóta War. She reveals the family’s seeds that she has cared for; seeds that were kept safe in the hem of her ancestor’s skirts as they were forced to leave their beloved land. As a nature lover and aspiring gardener, “The Seed Keeper” was like a piece of candy. I found myself savoring each word, enjoying Diane Wilson’s gifted storytelling while also grieving as I learned about the heartbreaking history of the Dakhóta people in Minnesota. For anyone who appreciates nature and has an interest in indigenous peoples.
—Allison Hendrix, Snail Readers Circle
A haunting novel spanning several generations, The Seed Keeper follows a Dakh ta family's struggle to preserve their way of life, and their sacrifices to protect what matters most. Rosalie Iron Wing has grown up in the woods with her father, Ray, a former science teacher who tells her stories of plants, of the stars, of the origins of the Dakh ta people. Until, one morning, Ray doesn't return from checking his traps. Told she has no family, Rosalie is sent to live with a foster family in nearby Mankato--where the reserved, bookish teenager meets rebellious Gaby Makespeace, in a friendship that transcends the damaged legacies they've inherited. On a winter's day many years later, Rosalie returns to her childhood home. A widow and mother, she has spent the previous two decades on her white husband's farm, finding solace in her garden even as the farm is threatened first by drought and then by a predatory chemical company. Now, grieving, Rosalie begins to confront the past, on a search for family, identity, and a community where she can finally belong. In the process, she learns what it means to be descended from women with souls of iron--women who have protected their families, their traditions, and a precious cache of seeds through generations of hardship and loss, through war and the insidious trauma of boarding schools. Weaving together the voices of four indelible women, The Seed Keeper is a beautifully told story of reawakening, of remembering our original relationship to the seeds and, through them, to our ancestors.