Feasting for Change: Reconnecting to Food, Land and Culture is a project guided by a broadly representative working group, collaborating since May 2007, who support urban and rural Aboriginal Communities in Southern Vancouver Island to enhance their food sovereignty and the sharing of the ‘old ways.’
Since May 2007, 32 such events have taken place and reached over 4,100 people.
Food Sovereignty is the state of being in which “all community residents obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self reliance and social justice” (Hamm and Bellows, 2002)
Purpose: The purpose of the Feasting for Change: Reconnecting to Food, Land and Culture Project is to bring Aboriginal Peoples in South Vancouver Island together around Traditional Food Feasts to discuss food security and food sovereignty in their communities. The goal is to identify community-specific issues around food and inspire action to address these issues.
Funding: The Feasting for Change project has generously been funded by the Horner Foundation, VanCity Sustainability Group, and the Tides Foundation.
Below are excerpts about Feasting for Change events through-out 2010. Please see our blog for detailed descriptions and a visual summary of these events at www.feastingforchange.com
Event 1: On March 13, 2010 UVIC students, Feasting for Change, and SeaChange came together to celebrate the beauty and sacredness of Snit’cel, the old village site of the WSANEC people in the Todd Inlet Park. Everyone worked together to gather materials for the pit cook. Earl Claxton Jr. taught how to use oceanspray stalks to smoke clams over a fire. The students gathered medicines for tea and Lewis told a story of how the birds got their songs while a salmon soup was prepared. After a small lunch, everyone split into two groups. One group helped remove invasive species and the other learned about medicines and indigenous plants. After the groups switched roles, the pit was opened. We feasted on root veggies, clams, apples and it was delicious. 60 people attended 5 young people, 20 UVIC students.
Event 2: On April 16 and 17, 2010 members from over 30 Coastal First Nations communities attended the 3rd Annual Conference on the Traditional Foods of Vancouver Island First Nations. The theme was Celebrating Indigenous Foods in a Changing World: Coastal Conversations among Youth, Elders and Community Members. Feasting for Change presented our project to a packed house, a participated in a display of traditional food projects and knowledge as one of twenty booths at the conference. Feasting for Change demonstrated traditional cooking techniques such as pit cooking skills, and smoking clams. We also supported workshops on bentwood box cooking and removing hides from deer. Over 300 people attended the conference, including 50 youth. Feasting for Change presented our project on the first day to a packed house and on the second was one of 20 booths displaying traditional food projects and knowledge. We also demonstrated pit cooking skills to over 300 people and supported workshops focused on removing hide from a deer, bentwood box cooking, smoking clams, baking scow bread and Elders teaching youth how to eat traditional foods. 300 people attended 50 young people.
Event 3: On May 11, 2010 Feasting for Change presented at the International Congress of Ethnobiology 2010 in Tofino, to over 100 people. It was truly inspiring to meet people from all over the world working hard on food issues and environment protection. It was a powerful moment. Youth from the Digital Harvesters were motivated to keep working on traditional food issues and became our strongest supporters.
Event 4: On June 5, 2010 Scia’new First Nation showcased the extensive knowledge, artistic skills, and experience that exist in their community to over 50 community members, including 15 youth. The youth loved knowledge keeper Evelyn Vandermas’ archival documents of how Scia’new people used the land and how the reserve boundary lines have changed. We also learned about how to carve, make masks with basket grass and cedar, cedar weaving, knit, spin, weave, and carding wool. Fourteen youth joined Lewis Williams on a nature walk. Elders taught the youth different traditional ways to cook and eat roe, crabs, mussels, clams and bannock. Each person got to make their own personal homemade pizza and cook it in Miteama Youth Project’s mobile cob oven. The demonstration cedar was donated to the Miteama Youth Project to help the youth learn cedar weaving and raise funds.
Event 5: On June 12, 2010 1200 people including over 70 youth, attended the Tsawout First Nation Seafood Festival on TIXEN (Cordova Spit). The day was filled with cultural activities including the first salmon ceremony and traditional pit cooking. There were information booths from Feasting for Change, the Goldstream Hatchery, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Vancouver Island Health Authority Aboriginal Health Diabetes Team, Parks Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, World Fisheries Trust/SeaChange with a Sea life Touch Tank, and the University of Victoria. Feasting for Change led the pit cook and we feasted on BBQ salmon, prawns, crabs, clam chowder, mussels, sea urchins, baked bread, corn, potatoes and much more. This event bridges outside community members, agencies and resources in a way that is essential to creating local, sustainable solutions to healthy food, land, and culture.
Event 6: On July 22, 2010 Feasting for Change working group members travelled to Snaw’naw’as First Nation to support their 2nd Annual Feasting for Change event organized by champion Vanessa Bob. 55 people attended, including 17 youth. Highlights included Fear Factor where they blended up McDonalds to demonstrate the value of food. This day was full of fun, laughter and great people. We learned how to play lahal, how to pit cook, to BBQ salmon, cook deer, cut and cook crabs and harvest clams. It was wonderful to see the community together and excited!
Event 7: On August 23, 2010 T’Sou-ke First Nation hosted 12 young people and 35 community members to celebrate the many gifts of their Territory. Leader and passionate food champion Christine George organized the day with great joy and expertise. Elders Shirley Alphonse and Linda Bristol opened the day with a welcome and prayer. Everyone learned to gather mussels, rockstickers (also known as stickshoes or kytons) and dig for clams. The food was scraped, cleaned and then boiled in some of the clam juice. We also made a delicious clam chowder on the beach, a fresh picked berry salad, and a fruit salad. John Ryce lightly smoked and then BBQ'd the fish. It was the best fish we have ever had.
Event 8: On August 24, 2010 Feasting for Change with Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations, and Gorge Waterway Discovery Centre hosted a learning day in Gorge Waterway Park, known traditionally as KEMOTEN (the shortcut). 60 people and 20 youth came to learn and experience traditional ways first hand. Cheryl Bryce demonstrated how to pit cook by the beach and Lewis Williams led a plant walk. Indigenous plants donated by the Township of Esquimalt were planted, UVIC Community Mapping Group built a community map, and Anna Spahan and Earl Claxton Jr. taught about traditional ways and medicines. August Thomas also taught the youth how to play lahal, a traditional game using bone sticks.
Event 9: On September 2, 2010 Pacheedaht First Nation invited Feasting for Change back out to their gorgeous beach front to revive and celebrate the teachings of their ancestors through the pit cooking method that the late Ida Jones shared with Nancy Turner. 15 youth dug the pits, gathered the materials, and put the pit together under the direction of their Elders. After the pit was in, Lewis Williams’ led a nature walk and the youth excitedly took the smelting fishing net down to the beach to catch fish and learn to cook them. Elder Stacy Jones closed the day with truly inspiring teachings reminding all of us of the importance of learning and respecting each of these opportunities. 35 people attended.
Event 10: On October 1, 2010 Pauquachin First Nation celebrated the many skills of its members. 80 attendees and 20 youth learned more about knitting, weaving, carving, and beading. They listened to Elders tell stories of traditional ways and foods. The kids piled into the community gym at the end of the school day, eager to learn and proud of their families knowledge. Everyone sat down to a delicious meal cooked by community members Mandy and Joan Henry.
Event 11: On October 28, 2010 over 200 people and 50 youth came to the Tsawout community gym to share, learn and network at Healthy Food, Healthy Families: Food is Medicine. Over 27 exhibitors focused on traditional food demonstrations, health care information, kids and family health, and community wellness. The event was sponsored by the Saanich Adult Care Society, Feasting for Change, Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities. We finished the day with a lovely meal and the movie Teachings of the Tree People: The Work of Bruce Miller about a Skokomish Elder.
Event 12: On October 29, 2010 over 50 Songhees community members, including 20 youth got into Halloween costumes as youth Sandy George led a pit cook, smoked salmon and feasted to celebrate the community garden. The day was chock full of youth carving pumpkins, a tour of the community garden, BBQing food and smoking different kinds of salmon.The first round of Fear Factor contestants had to eat seaweed, oolichans, broccoli, bean salad, olives, peppers, jalapenos and beans. The first four winner moved on to Round 2 and had to eat oolichan grease and blended up McDonalds. The winner got an IPOD shuffle. What a day!
Event 13: On November 3, 2010 20 people including 6 youth envisioned priorities for action for the coming year and how Feasting for Change fits within a youth-focused community. Inspiring ideas and a potential plan/ partnership for 2011 have emerged.
This year, Feasting for Change hosted or supported several workshops focused on learning traditional knowledge and skills. These workshops are listed below.
January 26: Plant Identification walk
February 5: “Where the Blood Mixes”, a play at the Belfry Theatre
February 19: Plant harvest and Identification walk
February 2: Anna Spahan taught about medicines
March16: Cedar Stripping
March 30: Harvesting stinging nettles
April 6: Harvesting Tea for giveaways
April 13: Harvesting Tea for giveaways
April 27 & May 4: Garden Creation with VNFC
April 28: Attended SENCOTEN conference
May 14: Attended SAEC Cultural Symposium Day
May 19: Presented Sandy George’s Digital Harvesters story to youth at Hans Helgeson and
May 26: Presented at Ecole Brodeur to Parent Advisory Council
May 21: Presented at South Island Wellness Society for Youth and Elder Wellness Day
June 3: VICCIFN Sustainability planning
June 10: Garden Creation at Tsawout
June 21: Attended Tsawout Craft Fair
July 28: Presented Sandy George and Raven Hartley’s Digital Harvesters stories to youth in
August 18: Nature walk with Pacheedaht youth group
September 14 & October 12: Cedar Weaving
October 10: Canning Fruit in T’Sou-ke
November 6: Gaffing Fish with Earl at Goldstream
November 13: Smoking Fish with Earl
November 14: Canning Tomatoes and Veggies in T’Sou-ke
December 16: Canning Fishing in T’Sou-ke