Carl L. Barnes
June 18, 1928 – April 16, 2016
by Greg Schoen
friends, and the seed saving community mourn the passing of Carl ‘White
Eagle’ Barnes, who died in Grove, Oklahoma on Saturday morning, April 16,
2016. Carl was known for his years of work with heritage corn, enabling
many Native tribes to recover and reunite with their sacred seeds.
Carl was of half Cherokee, half Scotch-Irish
ancestry, and was born in the original farmhouse in the Panhandle of
Oklahoma. His father had moved the family west, acquiring land and setting
up farming on the High Plains. Carl spent his childhood on this homestead,
and the family lived through the 'Dust Bowl' years, staying to survive the
ordeal, rather than leave as many did at that time in our history.
a youth, Carl began to seek out his Cherokee roots, and to explore the
knowledge of his ancestors and of Native American traditions in general.
Much of this quest centered on the ceremonies surrounding planting,
harvest, and honoring of the seeds.
He was a graduate of Turpin High School and Oklahoma State University
where he earned his Bachelor of Science Agriculture Education. Later in
his adult years Carl worked with the Cooperative Extension Service, and
several years serving with the Kansas Highway Patrol, at the same time
continuing to work the farm, operated an organization called CORNS, along
with his wife Karen, where they raised a family.
In the course of growing some of the older
corn varieties still being farmed at that time, Carl began noticing
ancestral types re-appearing in his crops As he isolated these, he found
that many of them matched up with traditional corns that had been lost to
various Native tribes, particularly those peoples who had been relocated
to what is now Oklahoma during the 1800’s.
Thus he was able to re-introduce specific
corn types to the elders of those tribes, and this helped their people in
reclaiming their cultural and spiritual identities. Their corn was, to
them, literally the same as their blood line, their language, and their
sense of who they were. Carl went on to acquire and exchange other
traditional corn seed from a variety of people he had befriended around
those that he met, he became known by his spiritual name White Eagle.
Through being of service with the seeds, Carl awakened to the more
esoteric nature of corn and its mystical relationship to human beings.
This led to further insights, which he shared widely, inspiring many
people over the years. His philosophy and teaching could be summed up in
three words he repeated so often — "The Seed Remembers."
After the passing of his wife
Karen in 2005, and later his son A. V.
Barnes, Carl stepped back from public life and encouraged the next
generation to carry on the work of seed-keeping. In 2012, Carl became
known for having originated a unique rainbow colored corn that became
known as 'Glass
Gem', which has since become an inspiration in our current-day seed
Carl will be remembered for his generosity,
wit and humor, and for the seeds he passed to willing hands. These will
continue to multiply beyond his time, to nourish and enrich the coming
"I stand in a radiant Glory.
My roots in the heart of Mother Earth.
My crown in the clouds of Father Sky.
The Four Winds encircle me in spirals of Love.
One going up, then down,
One going down, then up.
They meet in the Center of Complete Perfection--
The Human Stalk of Corn."