The Vancouver Island & Coastal Communities Indigenous Food Network is a collective of passionate and dedicated members with a shared vision of a healthy future based upon reconnecting with First Nations cultural teachings and practices. The membership is made up of health professionals, community development workers, members of the scientific community and culturally knowledgeable food managers and gatherers.
Essentially, the Vancouver Island & Coastal Communities Indigenous Food Network aims to build collaborative approaches in addressing issues of traditional food access and security. Moreover, the Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities Indigenous Food Network intends to research, document and share the ancestral strengths that are deeply rooted throughout Vancouver Island for the preservation for future generations.
To provide opportunities for people from rural and isolated communities to participate the Vancouver Island & Coastal Communities Indigenous Food Network has developed a rotating regional meeting approach across Vancouver Island. On a quarterly basis gatherings are hosted in each of the four island regions. (North, West, East and South) These regions are represented by three primary First Nations – Coast Salish, Kwakwakala and Nuu-chah-nulth. Since time immemorial these respective Nations have developed, maintained and evolved food gathering, harvesting and preserving approaches that are specific to their bioregion.
Celebration of traditional foods is a major part of the efforts put forth by the Vancouver Island & Coastal Communities Indigenous Food Network. The Network models this within each regional meeting that is held as well as through island-wide gatherings such as the Vancouver Island Traditional Foods Conference. The Vancouver Island Traditional Food Conference is an annual event that is collaboratively hosted at alternating locations across Vancouver Island. At these events there are many opportunities to share teachings, highlight key issues pertaining to traditional foods and to have fun!
Another goal of the Vancouver Island & Coastal Communities Indigenous Food Network is to meaningfully engage with first nations elders and youth. The Vancouver Island Traditional Food Network believes very strongly in the importance of continuing the transferal of traditional knowledge to the next generations. The Network promotes opportunities for first nations communities and their youth and elders to revitalize traditional teachings and to breathe life back into these practices.
Originally, the network was named the Vancouver Island Traditional Food Network, it was formed by like-minded folks interested in creating a collaborative approach to raise the profile of traditional foods on Vancouver Island. The first meeting took place in July 2008 as a follow-up to the Traditional Seafoods of V.I. Conference in April 2008. A Strategic planning session was held in September from which point the Network has continued to expand.
Thus far, the Vancouver Island & Coastal Communities Indigenous Foods Network has hosted gatherings in Snaw-naw-as (or Nanoose Bay), Tseshaht (or Port Alberni) Fort Rupert, Halalt and Victoria. These gatherings have focused upon providing opportunities for first nations communities to identify food related issues that they are most affected by, as well as sharing traditional food teachings and knowledge and advocating for first nations management and practicing rights. The documented findings from each community gathering are circulated through an ever-growing email listserve. Future plans for the Vancouver Island & Coastal Communities Indigenous Food Network include: the development of a website, a continuation of regional meetings throughout Vancouver island, further production of digital stories, and Position papers drafted with guidance from each First Nation area regarding traditional food security issues. The network has developed a number of programs such as the Digital Harvester project and co-hosted with UVIC the 3RD annual Tradtional foods conference. The VICCIFN has since hired a network developer.
Many traditional food systems on Vancouver Island have been lost due to a number of factors:
Inabilities to recognize and utilize the traditional food knowledge and systems
Destruction of ecosystems
Urban and industrial development leading to loss of access
Industrial and commercial harvesting
Poor harvesting techniques and,
Invasive species are also threatening the existence of many traditional food systems
In addition to the focus on traditional foods the Vancouver Island & Coastal Communities Indigenous Food Network appreciates and recognizes that it is essential to include discussion on issues relating to land and water. As environmental shifts continue to affect access to Indigenous foods the need to revitalize traditional teachings and practices becomes increasingly urgent. The Vancouver Island & Coastal Indigenous Food Network strives to draw strength and guidance from the ancestral ways of life that have developed within the traditional territories located on Vancouver Island in an effort to build a stronger foundation for the preservation of traditional foods and food harvesting practices.
To work together to recognize, maintain and enhance the traditional food systems on Vancouver Island and to honor and celebrate the cultural knowledge and holistic values of the First Nations people.