Family grants assist construct meals sovereignty for First Nation households and communities in northern Ontario

Being on the land and harvesting wild sport and meals is central to the way in which Carla Duncan lives and raises her youngsters in Muskrat Dam First Nation.

Relying on the season, she and her household harvest moose, fish, partridge, rabbit, marten, geese and Labrador leaves.

“There are nonetheless a number of folks on this space that apply every day dwelling and harvesting our conventional meals,” Duncan mentioned.

Because of a comparatively new grant that helps Indigenous households in northern Ontario, now she has the instruments to proceed feeding her household and group.

Duncan has acquired two family grants from Gaagige Zaagibigaa, certainly one of 4 funding businesses throughout the nation targeted on Indigenous meals sovereignty initiatives, to assist her buy the tools wanted to course of the normal meals gathered.

Pots are boiling over a fire as a woman sitting on a picnic bench monitors the fire.
A number of the new pots that Carla Duncan bought with the Gaagige Zaagibigaa family grant are getting used over the hearth in Muskrat Dam First Nation. (Submitted by Carla Duncan)

Grants enable her to share and course of meals

Among the many issues Duncan’s bought embody new industrial-sized pots and pans, knives, a meat grinder, and a brand new tarp for the teepee she makes use of as a gathering place, a processing centre and a space for storing for meals.

“It is a lot costlier to get any form of tools, particularly in our space right here … so it actually helps having this grant,” Duncan mentioned, referencing the truth that Muskrat Dam is a fly-in First Nation positioned 580 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont.

However these grants enable Duncan and her household to course of meals and share with all the group.

Moose meat is being put through a meat grinder.
Moose meat is being processed with this meat grinder that Carla Duncan was capable of buy because of a family grant by Indigenous meals sovereignty company Gaagige Zaagibigaa. (Submitted by Carla Duncan)

This fall, her husband and his looking accomplice harvested 4 moose, they usually had been in a position to make use of her re-furbished teepee to course of all that meat.

“You possibly can’t waste a single factor. So even the moose head, like they prepare dinner the moose head, so that you want an enormous pot to try this. Or like we minimize up the again bone, or there’s every kind of various bones that we eat and share. So after we get a moose, everyone is concerned. We should have had, I do not know, perhaps over 100 completely different folks all through the entire week,” she mentioned.

“And it’s important to share every thing, like we attempt to give out as a lot as we will to completely different folks as a result of a part of our educating is no matter you harvest, you share.”

Inside a frying pan is a spatula and a mixture of blueberries and small fish eggs.
Because of a family grant, Carla Duncan of Muskrat Dam was capable of purchase new pots and pans, which she is utilizing on this picture as she makes “sassipiman,” a combination of fish guts, fish eggs and blueberries. (Submitted by Carla Duncan)

Duncan was additionally capable of buy a GPS gadget, which makes her really feel extra comfy as her youngest son spends extra time going out on the land to entice and hunt — particularly since there’s restricted or no cell service across the First Nation.

‘I am going to give it to whoever wants it’

Tons of of kilometres away, Bernard Gagnon has an identical story in Aroland First Nation.

He acquired a family grant from Gaagige Zaagibigaa this previous yr, which helped him buy an upright freezer so he can retailer extra meals for longer through the winter.

Gagnon says he is out virtually each weekend looking, and the freezer will let him harvest extra to offer for others in Aroland.

The sky can be seen in this photo looking up at a teepee.
A brand new tarp covers Carla Duncan’s teepee in Muskrat Dam First Nation, which she says is a crucial gathering place, meals processing plant and storage web site for wild sport. The tarp was bought because of a family grant from Gaagige Zaagibigaa. (Submitted by Carla Duncan)

“Me and my spouse, we love being on the market, doing what we do to assist out our households or group elders to get some meals for them through the winter,” he mentioned.

“If I hear any person’s on the lookout for a whitefish or a chunk of moose meat, I am going to have it in my freezer and I am going to give it to whoever wants it.”

Receiving this grant is very necessary as a result of the price of meals and different home goods is so excessive, Gagnon mentioned, and an hour drive to the closest grocery retailer provides to the rising bills.

Jessica McLaughlin, the co-lead for Gaagige Zaagibigaa, says their family grants are empowering households to return to conventional diets and enhance their meals safety.

Three women sit on the back of a truck and pose for a photo.
Jessica McLaughlin, left, poses with two Indigenous youth, Shelby Gagnon and Morningstar Desrosiers, throughout a hunt camp in northern Ontario. (Submitted by Jessica McLaughlin)

“I imagine that the family is among the locations the place Indigenous meals sovereignty lives and thrives,” she mentioned.

Amongst different packages and relationships, the group opens family grant purposes twice a yr, and presents $1,000 or $2,000 grants to about 250 households every spherical of purposes.

Households can use that cash in many various methods from shopping for provides to assist them get on the land to constructing a backyard.

“So that you’re truly placing the ability again to the folks to make these selections for themselves somewhat than giving them a field stuffed with meals they did not select,” McLaughlin mentioned. “It is also necessary that we will make alternative routes to get meals to your desk and never have to purchase into the market-based system after which pay outrageous prices.”

The tales from Duncan and Gagnon are simply two of lots of, McLaughlin mentioned, that display the necessity for this program.

“After we evaluation the grants, there’s all the time tears of happiness,” she mentioned. “We’re all the time exchanging a few of the superb tales that individuals are writing and crying about them as a result of it is inspiring. We all know that this grant does not exist anyplace else.”

There have already been three rounds of the grants, and a fourth spherical of purposes will open within the new yr, McLaughlin mentioned.


This story is a part of CBC Thunder Bay’s annual fundraiser Sounds of the Season to assist folks battling meals insecurity. It is also an opportunity to take a more in-depth take a look at the rationale folks in northwestern Ontario are in want, and to highlight tales of organizations working to enhance meals safety within the area.

Be a part of us for a reside broadcast of Superior Morning on the RFDA in Thunder Bay on Friday. 

Discover out how one can participate within the Sounds of the Season marketing campaign right here!

(CBC)
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