For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples have been living off the land, sustaining themselves with nothing but what has been provided to them naturally. Looked down on and hampered by colonial forces for hundreds of years, it is only now in the wake of a climate crisis that this traditional way of life is being recognized for its brilliance. As knowledge keepers, Indigenous women have played a crucial role in ensuring the survival and success of their communities, and they continue to do so by merging traditional methods with modern agri-food practices. Our goal through this project is to continue to grow the role Indigenous women, girls, gender-diverse and Two-Spirit people play in the use of traditional practices and incorporating them with modern ones.
The objective of NWAC’s project is to facilitate a national engagement initiative that will focus on how Indigenous women and gender-diverse people are supporting themselves and their communities by living off the land, and what they need to do so even more. In part due to the climate crisis, there is unprecedented interest in Canada to develop a better understanding of agri-food from the perspective of Indigenous people, who have been sustainably living off the land for thousands of years. This project will contribute to this ongoing discussion by further exploring how these activities are shaped by gender. This project will cover the diverse harvesting, processing, and preserving activities of the Indigenous nations across our vast land, including trapping, hunting, fishing, plants and animal farming, and wild plant gathering. It will also cover the diverse networks Indigenous people use to distribute food, from traditional community sharing and trading, to more commercial export initiatives. Through their traditional roles as knowledge keepers, Indigenous women are crucial to maintaining and reviving their community’s vibrant traditional food production and distribution networks. But they are also carving out new roles and incorporating non-traditional agri-food practices into traditional ways. Indigenous agriculture can help sustainably address the food insecurity that plagues Indigenous communities and, in some cases, provides opportunities for sustainable economic development: Indigenous women are highly active in this sector and have a wealth of knowledge to share.
NWAC’s ‘Grassroots Engagement – Indigenous Women in Agriculture’ aims to open up Canada’s mainstream understanding of the agri-food industry to include traditional Indigenous food systems, and to help underrepresented groups, including Indigenous women, youth and gender-diverse people to take on a greater leadership role in the agriculture and agri-food sector through facilitating the sharing of traditional and non-traditional agriculture knowledge, experience and best practices.
We are currently conducting our first National Online Survey, through which we have already heard from 451 Indigenous women, Two-Spirit, and gender diverse people. In 2020-2021, we will host 8 regional engagement sessions and conduct