Indigenous Food Systems

A couple years ago I attended the annual BC Food Systems Network conference and discovered that food security had become a hot topic in aboriginal communities. First Nations around the province were revisiting traditional diets, relying less on going to the grocery store and more on hunting, fishing and foraging. They were trading salmon for moose meat and canning, preserving the fresh fruits and berries, making jams and jellies, drying fish, meats and seaweed. Some had initiated community freezers and were holding regular community dinners. Local food took on spiritual significance at their feasts.

At the conference, members of the Shuswap (Secwepemc) band spoke about their indigenous gardens. “All lands are our gardens,” one elder said. “The mountains, the meadows, the forests, the swamps.” She told how they used to camp and pick strawberries in season. She said it was important to keep their lands in indigenous states. She also said they needed to not rely so much on cattle ranching because the animal waste was messing up the water supply and they needed clean water for their gardens.

The movement is also educating the population in traditional ways. The Aboriginal Agriculture Initiative had funded about forty communities at that time, helping them to build community gardens, greenhouses, set up watering systems, buy tools, seeds and plants. The gardeners are putting more fresh fruits and vegetables on the table, sharing with those in dire need in the community. Since that conference, the Indigenous Food Systems network has formed, check them out.

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