In the last year, Food Sovereignty has come to the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc (TteS) community in many exciting, meaningful ways. Funding was received in May from the First Nations Health Authority to hire a summer Indigenous Food Sovereignty Coordinator and an Agricultural Specialist to re-establish the vacant greenhouse and build a new greenhouse in the community.
The goal of Indigenous food sovereignty at TteS is to maintain cultural and traditional land stewardship practices while exercising the right to determine how TteS will move food sovereignty initiatives forward, which in turn provide food security for current and future generations.
“It is important that food sovereignty initiatives be community-led” states Nikki Fraser, a TteS band member and the Summer Indigenous Food Sovereignty Coordinator who hosted a workshop on harvesting Sxusem (soapberries) this summer. This is a practise that has been taught for generations in her family and she brought it to the community so other band members could benefit from the traditional learnings. “I learned really quick that harvesting, preparing and cleaning the red soapberries is a lot of work and I have a newfound appreciation and respect for those that share our traditional knowledge and give Sxusem as gifts, it’s a jar of love and medicine”. She also initiated a good food box program that allows community members dealing with food security challenges to receive healthy nutritional food that is grown in the community greenhouse and purchased from Indigenous food growers. “We want Indigenous Food Sovereignty to be grass roots and benefitting everyone in our community,” Nikki asserts with passion and pride.
“Food security is important on so many levels,” says George Casimir, GM of Community Futures Development Corporation of Central Interior First Nations. “It’s not just about how we grow our own food but how we process it and how local production has a positive effect on our economy.” Casimir and Community Futures have been involved in the local food security projects and planning and consider it to be an important element in the work they do to help create economic independence for individuals and businesses.
KÚkpi7 Rosanne Casimir and council have been strong supporters for the recently developed three-year food security plan the regional Qwemtsín Health Society; Sxúsem has been working hard on, and the results are starting to pay off. Among many initiatives in the community, the society has focused on teaching the children about food production with the creation of planter boxes at the school where they tend to the plants and enjoy, literally, the fruits of their labour. The second part of the plan has been the berry walk (see following article). And the final part of the plan has been to implement programs for agricultural training in the community.
As part of the Applied Sustainable Ranching program at TRU, Elkstwécw ne tmicw – (working together on the land) is a partnership between Skeetchetsn, Tk’emlups te Secwépemc, and TRU. Students learn about regenerative agriculture and land management practices with a focus on innovation and financial and environmental sustainability. Tuition is fully funded through BC First Nation Secondary Partnerships.
KÚkpi7 Casimir and Community Futures are also behind the recently announced mobile food processing unit that is being implemented with Community Futures Central Interior First Nations’ Kweseltken Project. With a goal of supporting Indigenous food security and economic development, the project takes a mobile food processing unit to the schools and other locations where food is being harvested, allowing for processing methods like canning, smoking, and drying. The goal is to provide food related education and economic development that contributes to cultural livelihood.
With the help of the community champions and their partners, food sovereignty is taking hold at Tk’emlups te Secwépemc.
“I would love to see our kids growing and picking the berries, and then learning about canning and using the facilities in the mobile processing unit,” Casimir says, “and then taking jars home to their parents.”