KU journalism professor documenting project to revive Pawnee varieties of corn

Rebekka Schlichting, center, interviews Deb Echo-Hawk, a member of the Pawnee Corn Seed Project for her documentary short film with Boots Kennedye, co-director and cinematographer.
Rebekka Schlichting, center, interviews Deb Echo-Hawk, a member of the Pawnee Corn Seed Project for her documentary short film with Boots Kennedye, co-director and cinematographer.

LAWRENCE — Nebraska may be known as the Cornhusker State, but a University of Kansas professor is in the midst of a new documentary project telling the story of “the first Cornhuskers,” who have revived nearly 20 Indigenous species of corn as part of the Pawnee Corn Seed Preservation Project.

Rebekka Schlichting was a recipient of a $37,500 grant from Firelight Media, PBS and the Center for Asian American Media to produce a documentary on the project, part of a larger initiative called HOMEGROWN: Future Visions, to support emerging filmmakers who identify as Black, Indigenous and/or people of color to tell stories of the American Midwest. Schlichting’s film, tentatively titled “Back to the Land: The Pawnee Corn Seed Preservation Project,” will focus on Pawnee citizens working in Nebraska to build a seed library.

Schlichting, assistant professor of the practice in the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications, first learned of the project while working with Vision Maker Media, a company that trains and funds Indigenous filmmakers and documentarians. While working on a documentary about land being returned to original tribal owners, she learned of the corn seed project and wanted to tell its story.

“They’ve been able to bring back about 20 different varieties of Pawnee corn,” Schlichting said of the project. “Nationwide, tribes have identified about 700 different varieties of corn that differ not only in appearance but in nutritional value from the dominant corn today. We decided that the Pawnee Corn Seed Project was too big to […]

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