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How to eat local forever: lessons on food security gathered from First Nations

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Samantha Vincent learned trapping from her grandmother, fishing from her aunts and hunting from her uncles. These skills now feed her family, her extended family and she brings food to the feast hall to “share with those who share her laws.” She told the JRP, “It’s the relationship to the particular lands that determines the structure of Wet’suwet’en society.”

They teach their kids about spiritual aspects of land stewardship and how to honour the day.

Marjorie Dumont, of the Wet’suwet’en, told the JRP, “Fishing is more than taking fish out of the water. My grandfather taught me how to honour the day, how to make a frame from the spruce trees, how to make a pack from spruce trees and how to find the trail down to the river. We kids followed him, copying everything he did. When we got down to the river, he told us where to set the net, how to set the net, when to set the net. How it was done was a very spiritual process with great respect for that river. After we had our fish, each grandchild would carry one and he’d put all the rest of the fish on his back to climb out of the river canyon. Who was the first one to the top? My grandfather. He’d be waiting for us, with a smile on his face, knowing he was passing this knowledge to his grandchildren. My grandmother would be waiting at the smokehouse to cut the fish. One day, all of a sudden, I was the one cutting the fish because I needed to learn how to preserve our fish for the winter. My grandmother was a hard worker and communicated with nature all the time. I don’t have the time to share the spirituality of berry picking, where to find the huckleberries. But she always spoke with the plants. She would say, in motherly caring way, ‘You have such big eyes for huckleberries.’”

Alfonse Gagnon, a Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief, told the JRP, “When we walk to an area, we understand that this is all our relations, like the fish relations. Everything that is living comes from the water. We grew up understanding that. We understand through our spirituality as indigenous people that we must protect that. The birds and animals all use the grass and in turn you eat those animals. So when you walk on the grass you must walk carefully and you must respect where you are walking.” 

April Churchill, Vice President of the Haida Nation, stated, “Seafood is a mainstay for all of us. I eat it five days a week. We’re not talking about weekend hunting. We’re talking about a spiritual connection, a recognition of the life forms that have been given to us for our well being. Our beliefs aren’t recognized as a ‘religion’ because we aren’t ‘organized.’ But everything we do regarding taking our livelihood from the land and the sea is spiritual in nature for us. We are protecting both food and ceremony.”

They protect the land where their food comes from pollution threats such as pipelines.

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