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The vast myriad of rivers, watersheds, landforms, vegetation and climatic zones have worked together for thousands of years to shape and form Indigenous land and food systems. Consisting of a multitude of natural communities, Indigenous food systems include all of the land, air, water, soil and culturally important plant, animal and fungi species that have sustained Indigenous peoples over thousands of years. All parts of Indigenous food systems are inseparable and ideally function in healthy interdependent relationships to transfer energy through the present day agriculture based economy that has been developed and industrialized through the process of colonization.
In contrast to the highly mechanistic, linear food production, distribution, and consumption model applied in the industrialized food system, Indigenous food systems are best described in ecological rather than neoclassical economic terms. In this context, an Indigenous food is one that has been primarily cultivated, taken care of, harvested, prepared, preserved, shared, or traded within the boundaries of our respective territories based on values of interdependency, respect, reciprocity, and ecological sensibility. As the most intimate way in which Indigenous peoples interact with our environment, Indigenous food systems are in turn maintained through our active participation in traditional land and food systems.
Why must we work towards food sovereignty in Indigenous communities? Since the time of colonization, Indigenous communities have witnessed a drastic decline in the health and integrity of Indigenous cultures, ecosystems, social structures and knowledge systems which are integral to our ability to respond to our own needs for adequate amounts of healthy Indigenous foods. Indigenous food sovereignty provides a restorative framework for health and community development and reconciling past social and environmental injustices in an approach that people of all cultures can relate to. “Food will be what brings the people together”. Secwepemc Elder, Jones Ignace.
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An initiative of these BC Healthy Living Alliance members:
Department of Canadian Heritage through Canadian Culture Online.