By Sheilagh McGlynn, PWRDF justgeneration.ca Facilitator
The staff at PWRDF is very lucky to work down the hall and around the corner from Mark McDonald, the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop. When Suzanne and I realized that Mark was leading a course the same week as the Sharing Bread (Two) program at Sorrento we sat down for tea together to talk about merging our two groups for a day to talk about the issue of food security in Indigenous communities in Canada. This idea grew into a wonderful collaboration that we experienced today.
Our day started with introductions to help the two groups know each other on a deeper level. We did this in the Indigenous style of gathering in a circle and taking our time to allow the process to happen. What I found interesting was hearing where people came from and what Indigenous band or territory it was connected to.
We then participated in a small activity out of justgenertion.ca’s new resource Off the Grid: Just Food! It was about “Feeding My Family in the Arctic.” It is a simple exercise that shows the costs of simple foods (a head of cabbage, a container of frozen concentrated juice, etc.) in the Arctic. The group engaged in a lively discussion over the fact that a case of 24 500ml bottles of water could cost $105.
Mark then led us through a beautiful history of food in Indigenous cultures. Historically permaculture was practiced. In many areas hunting, fishing and gathering of wild rice (a sacred food) contributed to a healthy diet. The food security of Indigenous communities suffered dramatically with the introduction of Western agriculture. Colonization didn’t allow for the nomadic nature of Indigenous Communities and their food security declined dramatically.
We learned that for Indigenous communities being able to hold on to their culture brings food security… and food security means they are holding on to their culture. The two realities are interlinked. We have been talking about the issues of food aid, food security and food sovereignty this week. One course participant made the connection that Indigenous communities need to have control over the food they eat. They are in need of food sovereignty.
A vital question was asked near the end of our session – What can we do?! Mark provided us with some concrete issues that we can respond to: the need for clean water and for adequately funded education in Indigenous communities; attitudinal changes in our relationships with Indigenous peoples and advocacy on a range of Indigenous rights concerns.
It was an energizing day and a good meeting of our two groups. We ended the day in a prayer to the Four Directions led by Bishop Mark.