Funding an important step toward Indigenous food sovereignty, says OKIB chief

First Nation food security

The chief of the Okanagan Indian Band says the announcement of provincial funding is an important step toward Indigenous food sovereignty.

The OKIB is among 15 First Nations across B.C. to each receive $80,000 for cultural food programs.

"The Indigenous Food Systems and Agriculture Partnership Program represents a meaningful step in increasing investments toward the success of Indigenous Peoples' food systems and supporting their priorities and approaches," Chief Byron Louis said in a press release.

Louis is also chair of the BC Indigenous Advisory Council on Agriculture and Food.

The council provided input on the design and scope of the program to better align with Indigenous-identified funding needs and priorities.

"We see this program as a reflection of the province's deepening awareness and commitment to Indigenous peoples' food systems and agriculture," said Louis.

The OKIB's share of the $1.1 million will go to provide "culturally safe" and affordable foods through band-owned land, which was recently designated to grow fruits and vegetables, traditional foods, livestock and process meat. It will also provide a kitchen and pantry, cooking pit and root cellars, as well as space for cultural activities, to create job opportunities.

"First Nations communities deserve the right to express themselves culturally through food, and this funding will help the Okanagan Indian Band build on the work they are already doing towards food security and food sovereignty in their community," Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu said.

The partnership program supports Indigenous communities with agriculture, food processing and food-systems planning, as well as training and skills development, technological adoption, scaling up productivity and profitability, and climate change adaptation.

The projects range from canning and dehydrating at the Adams Lake Indian Band in Chase, to irrigation and agricultural equipment at the Kanaka Bar Indian Band in Lytton, and traditional seafood gardens along the west coast of Vancouver Island in four Nuu-chah-nulth territories.

"Indigenous peoples have always had a unique relationship with the land, the water, the air, the fire and every living thing that lives on this Earth.... In this critical time of climate change, we are again needing to find new ways to adapt in order for our families, our communities and Indigenous peoples to survive and ensure survival for the next seven generations. This means creating new economies," said Shelley Leech, co-chair of the advisory council.

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