The Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty (WGIFS) is an Indigenous-led working group has the core purpose of increasing awareness of the underlying issues, concerns and strategies impacting food security in Indigenous communities in all major regions of British Columbia. Membership is Indigenous lead with traditional harvesters (hunters, fishers, gatherers), farmers/gardeners, Indigenous community members, diverse civil society representatives and inclusive of non-Indigenous advocates from settler communities, promoting cross cultural participation and balance across a large and diverse geographic area. While their work endeavours to impact policy, much of their work happens on the land in community garden programs in Musqueam Territory (in Vancouver) and Secwepemc Territory (Chase) and in territories where members fish, hunt, gather and cultivate. There they see impacts of resource management projects that affect watersheds, soil quality, Indigenous flora, access to harvesting areas and the health, migration and populations of fish and animals which are essential for food sovereignty, community nutrition and cultural survival.
WGIFS seeks to apply culturally appropriate protocols and ancient ways of knowing through a consensus-based approach to critically analyzing issues, concerns and strategies as they relate to Indigenous food, land, culture, health, economics, and sustainability. Through participation in the B.C. Food Systems Network Annual Gathering, WGIFS was 2006 out of a recognized need to carry the Indigenous voice in the various meetings, conferences and discussions that have taken place within the food security movement.
Our work with WGIFS has slowly evolved from mutual recognition of important and intersecting work, into a pilot activity to learn about and make use of Mapeo and related technologies to address current needs. The most urgent need is for hunters and trappers to form a new team of Watchmen in Secwepemc Territory to have the skills and appropriate tools to gather data and evidence on infractions including unlicenced hunting, unpermitted road and construction and misuse of pesticides that affect moose and salmon populations. Using this monitoring data can help create a visible and accessible baseline of data that community members can organize around and develop suitable strategies to protect their local access to culturally appropriate food. Another aspect of the project is to map sites of traditional food cultivation and access across the province so the can be granted similar protections to those of Agricultural Land Reserves (ALR). The B.C. Food Systems Network has made a preliminary approval to recognize Indigenous Foodland Areas and now data and maps are required to advocate that each site receive formal recognition by municipalities the respective local municipalities.
Orientation, collaboration on customizations for mapeo, and introductory trainings are being planned for delivery this year. Second phase will include more on territory mapping functions and the delivery of a sustainable training program