The local paper today has a story about food prices in Nunavut, twenty dollars for a cabbage! Fifteen bucks for a small bag of apples, this is beyond ridiculous. Do any of us really enjoy food security? If you couldn’t visit the grocery store what would you do? People today are so far removed from the source of their sustenance that without money many of us could conceivably perish. Low income people in Canada do in fact struggle daily with malnutrition and preventable diet related illness. First Nations communities are particularly vulnerable to these conditions but it wasn’t always this way. Archeological studies have proven our First Nations employed cultivation methods sophisticated enough to feed a growing and vibrant civilization. They used selective breeding to produce and transform many of the food plants we enjoy today. Corn for example originally produced just a few kernels per stock, not the juicy big cobs we gobble up with glee. We can thank our Native growers for beans, potatoes and squash, most melons too. Why then does the general public have the huge misconception that our First Nations lived a hunter/gatherer lifestyle. Man can not live on deer and blueberries alone, it doesn’t make any sence. What does make sence is the organised production of food crops and that’s exactly what these folks were doing when they signed in good faith the treaties that eventually took food security away from them.
This issue affects us all, our food systems need a re-vamp. People don’t have to pick up hoes and start gardens in the front yard, but meeting and supporting local farmers is certainly a good start. Embracing the cultivation methods of our First Nations which worked in the past, work fine right now and will continue in the future is another great step in promoting food security. This civilization knew the how, what and why of keeping people fed. They knew what to do in times of illness and injury, the oral history and traditions of our Aboriginal Peoples contain wisdom and knowledge as useful in the here and now as it was back in the day. We have begun a journey into and through this web of stories and lessons with the help of the few traditional cultivators still holding on, just in time it seems.
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