First Nations discuss future of food sovereignty on Vancouver Island

First Nations discuss future of food sovereignty on Vancouver Island

A food security summit in Port Alberni is trying to addresses the vital need to expand food sovereignty and emergency food planning activities for 14 Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations and nearby communities.

“Traditionally, ancestrally this was commonplace. All of our food source came 100 per cent from our territories and of course today that’s very different,” said Ahousaht First Nation Chief John Rampanen.

“The reliance on outside introduced foods is that much more so. It’s becoming more of a bigger issue I’d say over the last few years with climate change that we’ve been experiencing directly.”

The event is an opportunity for mutual learning, knowledge-sharing and focused collaboration. Together, the leadership at the event will aim to establish and implement a comprehensive and sustainable strategy to advance food sovereignty for their communities.

Two-hundred delegates attending from across Vancouver Island agree that growing or catching and harvesting food and then preserving it has to become a way of life again, especially for more remote communities.

“I believe it is the goal. We need to start growing our own foods. We don’t know where things are going to go in the future with foods worldwide,” said Rose-Anne Michael from the Ehatteshaht First Nation near Zeballos.

Rampanen says this past summer brought the issue of food security front and centre.

“The wildfire closure on the Cameron Lake highway was one of those eye-openers for us on the coast that really resonated deeply that we need to have more security when it comes to being able to provide a continuous food source for our people,” added Rampanen.

Areas past the highway closure due to the wildfire saw food shortages as deliveries struggled to make it to the region.

“Shelves got empty and it was a hard time for not only us in Ucluelet but as well as Tofino,” said Geneva Touchie of the Ucluelet First Nation.

Worldwide demand for food from their territories is also having a major impact.

“People of the world want our clams and so it gets sold, people of the world want the fish, so it gets fished and sold,” said Julie John from near Zeballos.

One idea is to go back to sharing from tribe to tribe like they used to.

“We don’t harvest elk where we live so it would be really great to go into the Interior and have a trade so like here’s some sea food, can we exchange? The way it used to be,” added Touchie.

Island Coastal Economic Trust is investing $30,000 into the two day Nuu-chah-nulth Food Sovereignty Gathering and Solutions project through the Investment Readiness Program.

Ahousaht First Nation is leading the project, which will realize a total investment of at least $152,000.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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