Fifteen Indigenous-led projects will be getting a combined $1.1 million from the province to improve food security and sovereignty.
Agriculture Minister Pam Alexis announced the specific projects Tuesday (May 16), with the groups receiving anywhere between $68,000 and $80,000.
The Indigenous Food Systems and Agriculture Partnership Program, first announced in September 2022, is creating more food and agriculture opportunities for Indigenous communities. Alexis said it helps them take a step toward becoming equal partners in B.C.’s agricultural sector.
BC Indigenous Advisory Council on Agriculture and Food co-chair Shelly Leech said Indigenous peoples have always had a “unique relationship with the land, the water, the air, the fire and every living thing that lives on this Earth.” That relationship is reciprocal, with them looking over the land and the land providing for them
“We have evolved for centuries as the world around us has changed. Indigenous Peoples have had to adapt and learn new ways of doing to maintain this unique relationship. In this critical time of climate change, we are again needing to find new ways to adapt in order for our families, our communities and Indigenous Peoples to survive and ensure survival for the next seven generations.”
A 2022 report, “Indigenous Food Sovereignty and Food Security in a Changing Climate,” noted that European colonialism, leading in the creation of reserves often in a remote locations with inferior climatic conditions, disrupted, disturbed and ultimately destroyed millennia-old patterns of food gathering among First Nations, cutting them off from traditional food sources. They instead came to rely on non-traditional food imported from the outside, often of lower quality because of costs.
Food scarcities caused by climate change, supply-chain disruptions linked to COVID-19 and a general resurgence of First Nations culture have over the years inspired many First Nations communities to seek more reliable food sources and revive traditional knowledge and tools.
The projects receiving funding point to that work.
Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government, near Chilko Lake, is getting $79,500 for community members to learn about traditional foods and harvesting, develop training and education materials in Tsilhqot’in, hire a local Indigenous food lead and create opportunities for economic development by starting a local farmers’ market.
“We are working toward building a food system that will improve food security in our community for generations to come,” said Dalton Baptiste, with XGFNG First Nations. “The funding from this program will enable us to grow our own food in our community and will support the passing along of our traditional teachings.”
Pacheedaht First Nation, near Port Renfrew, is getting $68,790 to expand the community garden, plant an orchard, cultivate medicine plants from the original village site and install a community pantry for locally harvested in-season foods, as well as shelf-stable foods and medicines.
Haida Wild, in Haida Gwaii, is getting $80,000 to install two smokehouses that haven’t been functional and increase employment and training opportunities.
The Kanaka Bar Indian Band, near Lytton, is getting $80,000 to create a food self-sufficiency plan to purchase irrigation and agricultural equipment. The plan will help build solutions to feed the increasing population and ensure the band can remain resilient to the effects of climate change.