‘Perennial Ceremony’ Cultivates Connections With the Earth

Teresa Peterson’s upcoming book delves into the profound connection between land, food, and community

Photos courtesy of University of Minnesota Press  

Where does the food we consume come from? What role do we play in caring for Mother Earth? How can we be good relatives to the land, water, and our communities? Author Teresa Peterson, a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota tribe and a resident of the Upper Sioux Community, explores these questions in her newest book, “Perennial Ceremony,” available for preorder and set to release in June 2024. More than just a story about gardening, this intricate collection of prose, poetry, and recipes offers readers a glimpse into Peterson’s personal journey of reconciliation between her Christian faith and Dakota spirituality.

“I grew up on a hog farm, and our family had a garden,” Peterson says. “I learned a lot during that time… cooking, harvesting, and preserving vegetables, fruits, [and] even chickens. We worked hard, and while I didn’t always like it, the impact must have stuck with me when I became a mother.” With a desire to share these experiences with her sons, she moved her family to the country, where she has cultivated her own garden for two decades.

Peterson’s venture into writing began with her children’s book, “Grasshopper Girl,” which was inspired by her mother’s Dakota stories. She explains, “I never intended to write a book or become a writer.” In fact, she wasn’t even much of a reader until well into adulthood. But after the book’s publication with Black Bears and Blueberries Publishing, a Native children’s press, she embarked on writing “Voices from Pejuhutazizi: Dakota Stories and Storytellers,” which she co-authored with her uncle, Walter LaBatte Jr. “It took me at least 20 years to do that project because it was more of a healing journey,” she says. “I was accepted into a Native Women Writer’s cohort, led by author Diane Wilson in June 2020, and was part of this group for two years. Having this support helped me complete [this book].”

Since then, Peterson has leaned into her own personal spiritual journey. “I would find myself questioning my cultural identity,” she says. “Particularly, I was curious about the role of ceremony across these sectors based on my own experiences.” Seeking solace from these questions, she turned to her garden and the nearby walking trails. “It got me thinking about all the aspects that go into the way of life we created—in the growing or foraging of our own food, caring for the land, [and] feeding friends and family.”

Through the Dakota seasons, Peterson uncovers crucial lessons as a gardener, gatherer, and steward of the land. Each season—from the awakening of Wetu (spring) and the imperfect splendor of Bdoketu (summer) to the harvesting wisdom of Ptanyetu (fall) and the restorative solitude of Waniyetu (winter)—becomes a vessel for lessons on healing, wellness, and the interconnectedness of life. “We have this saying in Dakota, mitakuye owasin, [which means] ‘all my relations,’” she says—a humbling reminder to honor and nurture our connections with all beings.

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