From June 15-17, Sarah Chee and Julie Price from Tides Canada travelled to South Indian Lake/O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation (OPCN), Manitoba (four hours north of Thompson). Joined by community grantees and staff from Food Matters Manitoba and TNC Canada, the trip was the second community learning exchange this year and provided participants the chance to exchange and share their knowledge of country foods (traditional foods sourced from the land) and visit OPCN’s successful Ithinto Mechisowin Program.
The agenda included presentations, a tour of the IMP building, and a boat tour of the South Indian Lake area (which was drastically affected by the Churchill River Diversion Dam project in the 1970s). OPCN was also kind enough to include attendees in their Heritage Day Celebration with local youth. The celebration included games and teachings, such as traditional ways to make bannock, fix goose, and cut and prepare moose, and fish. Trip attendees also offered up their knowledge of traditional medicine and foraging, including picking Labrador leaves for tea and spruce sap for gum or a salve (when melted down with lard or honeycomb).
Toward the end of the trip, attendees also trekked to Leaf Rapids to visit their NMFCCC-supported nursery and greenhouse project and the Nelson House country foods program, which has been running since 1992.
“It was remarkable to see Julie in action and to better understand the challenges of on-the-ground work and see the reputation of Tides Canada in the area thanks to her work and relationship building,” said Sarah. “As a “southerner”, I didn’t fully comprehend some of the difficulties in working with remote Northern communities and how important the manner in which we conduct our grantmaking can be (e.g. multiyear funding). So much trust has to be earned to be truly effective and to empower community members. It was wonderful to see how keen and involved the community members are and how they are improving their health and economy, reclaiming culture, and rebuilding community and intergenerational bonds with food. It really tied together how analogous the NMFCCC work is to so much of our other work, but the mechanism of change here is food.”
In 2014, the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture, and Community Collaborative was established to work with communities to address the region’s serious food security challenges. In the remote communities in Northern Manitoba people struggle with very high rates of poverty, food insecurity, and related health issues. It was not always this way though, and community members have responded by launching an increasing number of innovative local solutions. Fishing cooperatives, gardens, wild food programs, bee apiaries, and greenhouses—these are just some of the ways northerners are using food to build community, improve health, strengthen local economies, provide opportunity for youth, and reclaim culture.
Read more here, and download a copy of the 2015 community report.