Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Feasting in Namgis First Nation

Prayers were answered as the morning sun cleared the rainy clouds still leftover from the day before. The South Island Feasting for Change working group members Fiona Devereaux, Earl Claxton Jr., John BradleyWilliams, Anna Spahan and Jen McMullen had drove up to Alert Bay the weekend of October 24th, for the Alert Bay Feasting for ChangeTraditional Foods Feast hosted by Jean Smith, Traditional FoodsCoordinator in the beautiful Namgis longhouse.

Jean Smith, along with Jamie Hunt, Erin Rowsell, Sharon Gorden and many others organized fun activities during the day-long event for the Alert Bay community.The early morning kitchen bustle grew as vegetables, clams and salmon pieces were being chopped for the lunch that marked the beginning of the feasting day. Three full tables kept going back for seconds as we shared a tasty meal of clam and fish chowders.

Lunch gave way to afternoon activities that included an outdoor pitcook, a nature walk in the Gator Garden led by Earl and John Bradley. Many people came back excited by what they had learned from Earl and John Bradley. In the bighouse, the cooks had set up salmon bbq'ing around the longhouse fire. What a glorious picture! Beside the fire, people sat talking and watching the salmon roasting. In addition, there was a cedar weaving workshop where youth and others wove cedar bracelets, and medicinal teachings and teas/salves by Eva Dick, as well as Feasting for Change's table displaying books by local First Nation's authors on Indigenous foods and Feasting for Change's Knowledge Basket.

After the invigorating nature walk, Sharon started the Indigenous Foods Fear Factor! There were five rounds, the participants in each round had to eat everything on their plate withoutmaking faces to make it to the next round. There were raw fish eyes,herring eggs, salmon eggs, ..... The winner was ... and she won an mP3player. After the Fear Factor, Sharon organized the youth into two teams. The teams competed to see who could answer the most questions onIndigenous foods, including their traditional names and identification.The X team, consisting of XXXX shared their winnings. Next, everyone participated in the Indigenous foods bingo, organized by Fiona.

The non-stop and cheerful cooks obviously knew what they were doing when an incredible feast was brought out into the longhouse. The tables sagged with several different kinds of salmon: smoked, breaded, grilled- all really tasty. Other foods were yummy bannock that everyone raved about, salad, herring eggs, and the pitcook vegetables. The food was all harvested and preserved by the rayers were answered as the morningsun cleared the rainy clouds still leftover from the day before.
So wonderful to spend time with such amazing people.
We would like to acknowledge the Namgis First Nation for their interest and support in Feasting for Change, the BC Healthly Living Alliance, Canadian Cancer Society and Vancity for their support, encouragement and passion for this project and the connect to Food, Land and Culture.

Many Thanks, Gilakesla, Hych'ka, Choo

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Elsie Claxton's Memorial Garden - WSANEC

Elise Claxton Memorial Garden Tour
With John Bradley Williams, Nancy Turner, Earl Claxton Jr and Judith Arney.

Wsanec Trail at Glendale Gardens, Saanich BC
August 17, 2009

In a glorious summers day a keen group of 20 plant lovers listened and shared in the knowledge and teachings of the Saanich People.
John Bradley Williams led us through the amazing trail that created though a partnership with the Harvest woods working group. He, Judith, Nancy, and Earl Jr created an interruption walk. We walked through the gardens and were shared the teachings and knowledge of over 10 plants. There was still much more to see but we stopped for tea and a great time to visit and share.

Below are the plants we talked about:

1) Salal Berries – Are still harvested and are commonly made into jams by itself or mixed with other berries. The branches were used by our hunters as blinds because the leafs stay green for a long time.

2) Red Huckleberries – The berries are sweet and bright red, these are one of the berries made into jams with Salal, Blackberry, Oregon grape and a lot of the other berries that are found the area.

3) High Bush Cranberries – These berries are really bitter and need to be submerged in water for 6 to 7 days to sweeten up.

4) Grand Fir – The needles are high in vitamin C and were used to treat scurvy that the Europeans had gotten from having to sail so far. The best time to harvest the needles is when there is new growth in the spring and last until mid-summer.

5) Trailing Blackberries – These blackberries are the only native to the island, there is two introduced ones as well, the Himalayan and the Evergreen blackberries. The native ones usually ripen in the summer time and are made into pies, cakes as well as jams.

6) Bull Rush – You can peel the skin the length of the blade and use your thumb nail to gently scrap the flesh from the centre of the blade to get the porous material to use as a candle wick, all you need is a source of oil.

7) Salmon Berries – The young shoots taste sweet in the spring before they get too tall because they will get fibrous and taste bitter. The berries have three colors when they are ripe that is yellow, orange and red. These berries are usually one of the first ones to ripen.

8) Pacific Crab Apple – This is a small native apple that is still harvested today. Commonly mixed in jams with sweeter berries or other fruit because it is bitter. The fruit of the Pacific Crab Apple needs to be submerged in water to sweeten just like the High-bush Cranberry.

9) Thimbleberry – The Thimbleberry is in the raspberry family and like the young shoots of the Salmonberry these ones can be eaten in the spring. The berries are delicate and can easily be crushed in your fingertips which give rise to the second common name the Kiss Berry because if you “kiss the berry” it will come undamaged.

10) CatTail and Tules –These two aquatic plants were used to mats, curtains, and covers for food to protect it from the heat of the sun. The Tule was used to make large mats for insulation of our houses. These mats can be as large as six feet in width by eight feet in length.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Hello all..
Just sharing some Pictures...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Feasting the Island - BCHLA

The BC Healthy Living Alliance along with Vancity is supporting this project along with many of the community members and leaders.
We have been funded by the BCHLA to develop a 'Knowledge Basket' or a tool kit to help share the stories, teachings and tips on how to bring communities together to share aroud foods. Setting the table and feasting has been apart of Aboriginal communites for hundreds of years. We are taking what the Elders asked us to do and bringing the youth and Communities together around food, land and culture.

The Knowledge Basket will include the digital story and the slideshow with over 400 pictures of local people enjoying food, sharing skills and knowledge and having fun. It will also have an event planning checklist, food bingo, draw prize questions, feast invitations, elder invitations and poster templates. We have been using these resources to help up island nations Feast for Change and had our first Feast last Wed in Snaw-naw-as. It was amazing. Pictures and summary to follow! What a community!

We will be putting all of our learnings on DVD so communities can access this. We will be gifting all the nations in BC with the DVD and selling the DVD to other communities across BC. Above picture is a draft cover of the Basket.
We hope to have it available soon and hope to be sharing it with all of BC at the 10th Annual BC Food Systems Conference in Chehalis this September.

Snaw-naw-as Feast - The Adventures of Hawk and Doug on Feasting for Change

The day started off beautifully. There was a great energy in the air as vegetables were being prepared and fires started at 8 am for the Feasting for Change day in Snaw-naw-as, Nanoose community on August 12, 2009. The community members, lead by Vanessa Bob (the Community Program Manager) and the Feasting for Change working group members had been planning for a couple of months to host a Feasting for Change event.

Two main organizers for the day were the Youth workers, Doug and Hawk. I spoke with them to see what their thoughts on the day were.

"Awesome" was the word Doug used to describe every part of the day! "It was so nice to have the families and friends together and having good times around our food". Hawk added "It was a day about culture. Everything we did was about our culture..."

I asked the guys what their favourite part of the day was...

Doug - "Eating the food, fish and crab and the raw oyster's too"
Hawk - "Eating the crab for sure. Only about 2 of my friends eat seafood.... but that day, all of them were eating seafood it was so great to see!"

The community members all got together to put together the pit cook. It was amazing! Both youth and elders had jobs in the line for putting together the pit. Those who were not directly in the "line-up" helped support by watching and helping wherever they could. It was beautiful to hear the voice of Della Rice Sylvester throughout the day with her beautiful songs of prayer and thanks.

After the Pit was covered, we had the opportunity to take part in a Nature Walk with a truly knowledgeable community member, Jim Cook. Hawk mentioned that "we haven't done a Nature Walk in a long time.... it was interesting and we learned some new skills". There was a beautiful exchange of knowledge between both elders and youth and knowledge keepers in the group about different plants and berries. "Awesome" was how Doug described it!

Then came the exciting event of the day the "Fear Factor"! The idea was to offer traditional foods, some raw, some cooked, including salmon, octopus, oysters and crab to those that signed up. The winner was the first to finish their plate with nothing left in their mouth, and they would win a Nintendo Wii! The sign up was incredible; 18 people! It was a very close match "Our own Youth Leader, Doug was the winner!" Hawk mentioned that the "participation was so good that day".

After the pit was uncovered by the help of many hands, we moved to the hall where a Feast was definitely awaiting! There were crabs and salmon - cooked a few different ways, beautiful vegetables from the pit, salads, Debbies famous fry bread, Blackberry sauce (this came from blackberries picked by Doug and Hawk and the little ones from the daycare), and corn. Hawk mentioned that "people don't really get together a lot anymore, as a community, but everyone was together that day".

There was such a sense of pride and community in within the smiles of those that were at that dinner. One of the effects of the day was summed up by Hawk : "It makes me want to have my own garden, growing your own food instead of buying it from a store. Like peas, I didn't think I liked peas because I only had the ones from the store, but I LOVE the ones from the garden!".