Last week, Hesquiaht elder Dolores Bayne and I set out on a journey that would carry the ancestral teachings of the Hesquiaht Nation across the country. We travelled to Ottawa to present at the annual meeting of the Food Security Reference Group. The group is made up of representatives from the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, The Assembly of First Nations, academics in the field, and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Dolores is the coordinator of the Cha me ta-Ha-uuk Hesquiaht (“eating the right way”) Project. The project was initiated by the Hesquiaht Nation, Clayoquot Biosphere Trust and Ecotrust Canada (through the Clayoquot Forest Communities Program). The project will support the development of a National Aboriginal Food Security Strategy.
The Hesquiaht community has identified several next steps as priorities to ensure food security. The community would like to establish a community garden and greenhouse project that will connect elders and youth in growing produce. The Hesquiaht will continue to commit to restoring and monitoring their traditional territory to ensure abundance for future generations. The community plans to restore berry arbours in the village to increase yield and berry size. And they would like to explore various wildcrafting business opportunities in their territory to produce value-added end products.
When it was our turn to present, Dolores spoke about her dreams and concerns about the community. She wove a story in Nuu-chah-nulth and English that engaged, moved and captivated those present at the meeting. She possesses the skill to touch all those present personally simply because she herself has led such a rich and fearless life. She has the unique ability to transform concepts like hish-uk-isht-tsawalk (everything is connected) into practice, thus giving it life and tapping into collective conscience.
Dolores was able to convey the vital connection between language, traditional food practices, and restoration of the territory to historical abundance. These primary priorities cannot be thought of as separate from one another. Rather, there is an intimate connection that binds these practices, and future needs must reflect these values for the community to be and stay resilient.
Participants were invited to join the conversation and engage in enriching the framework and identifying opportunities and synergies. Dolores ended the meeting with a prayer in Nuu-chah-nulth, giving thanks to the creator, and asking for the wisdom and guidance to move the process forward for the benefit all First Nations of Canada.
By Stephanie Hughes
Project Coordinator, Clayoquot Forest Community Program