New TRU certificate program incorporates traditional knowledge, teaching Indigenous, Western sustainable farming practices

TRU, First Nations partner

A partnership between two First Nations and Thompson Rivers University has resulted in a new post-secondary certificate program where students learn to sustainably farm using Indigenous and Western practices.

According to a joint statement, the Applied Sustainable Ranching Certificate can be achieved through distance learning, but students also participate in work practicums and workshops on Secwepemc ranches and farms.

Skeetchestn Indian Band initiated the partnership — called Elkstewewc ne tmicw, working together on the land — with Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and TRU.

Terry Denault, Skeetchestn elder advisor for the program, said in the statement the program will help ensure Indigenous practices are incorporated into teachings.

“Food sovereignty, or our ability to take control over our food, is so important to make sure our youth do not lose the traditions of the past,” Denault said.

According to the statement, the BC First Nations Post-Secondary Partnership Program has provided $300,000 to fund the certificate.

Students learn skills related to regenerative agriculture and traditional land use practices. These include grazing and riparian management, invasive species, managing soils, biodiversity and business management.

The statement said the partnership will benefit the Skeetchestn community, as the band owns three ranches not currently in use or leased out as there aren’t enough community members with the knowledge or support to make them sustainable.

The Skeetchestn Indian Band and TteS said they have seen growing interest among their members to implement community gardens and greenhouses.

TteS Kukpi7 Roseanne Casimir said increasing food sovereignty and land-based learning will support community health and resiliency.

“The traditional foods and medicines of the indigenous Secwepemc people are increasingly threatened by climate and social crises,” Casimir said.

“Health Canada reports that Indigenous communities are at three and a half times higher risk of household food insecurity, so funding to support training will have an extremely positive impact.”

Spaces are still available for three ASUR intakes starting May 3 and Sept. 7 of this year, and May 2, 2022.

TRU said anyone can apply, but funding is only earmarked for Indigenous students, with priority given to Skeetchestn and TteS community members.

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