Regional meeting in Halalt
Over 25 people attended the Regional Meeting at Halalt First Nations on Friday March 5th, 2010. Chief Dave Thomas welcomed us to the territory and Elder Janette Moore opened the meeting with a prayer.
Chief Thomas spoke to us about how impacts of the Indian Act system, residential schools, losing language, land and resources and the mainstream 'junk food society' have resulted in all First Nations have challenges with their health. He said that when he grew up he was taught hunting and gathering and now it's McDonald's. "Diabetes, cancer, heart disease are all linked to our diets" he said. "We need to get back to our staple foods, yet now many of them are contaminated, so we need to also start generating our own food - like with the community gardens and farms". "Education is key", he said.
Halalt is also the site of a peaceful demonstration against a municipal development that has negative impacts on the aquifer: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/video/2976
Jim Van Barneveld said that there is a water deficit in the Chemainus Valley in the summer and Wayne Haddow said that the broader issue is about watershed stewardship.
Elder Florence James spoke about how if we honour the river it will look after us and that the way we speak is the way we can help each other. She said that the policies that keep First Nations people in one place (i.e. reservation system) make the people and the land unhealthy because you over harvest when you are stuck in one place. "The basket for the clams is all you need - but if you have a larger gathering, then you need to move around," she said.
Lorraine Thomas spoke about how the diet of her people is a primary concern. As a child of 13 kids she learned gardening and food skills, so it is no wonder that she is the manager of the Halalt garden/ farm. If she can grow it, she'll do it and when she has lots of produce, she shares it and 'sneaks stuff' into the salad greens so that people will try new things.
Don Macwatt, former owner of a plant nursery, recommended that if First Nations want to produce food/ get into agriculture then to start with small scale and not rely on high cost investments and loans. "Start small and be successful, " he said, "then go bigger rather than starting big and failing".
The morning meeting was followed by a fabulous lunch that included deer stew, fish soup, bannock, smoked salmon, a rice root wild rice and seaweed salad, clover root, fresh greens and berry crumble for dessert.
In the afternoon the 'bones' of a greenhouse were raised by a fabulous work crew from up and down the island.
It was an amazing day and thanks to Halalt First Nations for allowing us to meet on your territory and share in your efforts to grow food and protect water.
Please view the photoalbum here http://s820.photobucket.com/albums/zz126/viccifn/Halalt/