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Feasting for Change

Feasting for Change is an ongoing project inspired by the wonderful knowledge of traditional food practices among First Nations community members.
The Aboriginal Health Department, VIHA Nutritionists, and First Nation Communities have been working together since May 2007 to enhance food sovereignty among the Aboriginal Communities of South Vancouver Island through traditional, local “feasting.”
The Feasts serve as a platform to support an open discussion of community issues and the sharing of traditional knowledge between Elders and youth. They offer both rural and urban First Nations communities the chance to experience a meal created in a time-honoured way, and assist in bringing communities “back to basics.”
In other words, the Feasts are a way for community members to share traditional food and knowledge, while exploring ideas about the community and health.
Since May 2007, 17 such events have taken place and reached over 1,800 people. Nutritionists have worked closely with community members during this time and through partnerships with VanCity, the BC Healthy Living Alliance and others, have created the Knowledge Basket – a two-disc DVD set that includes the tools and resources which have been useful for communities in hosting their own “Feasting for Change” events. Feasting has traditionally been in communities for generations, “Feasting for Change” is an opportunity to honour this practice.
All 51 First Nations communities on Vancouver Island have been gifted with a Knowledge Basket.
Now, in order to support the continuing development of the project, the Aboriginal Health Department is offering the Knowledge Basket to all communities for $30. The money raised from the sale of these sets will help in continuing these community feasting events.
To find out more information or to order a copy of the DVD, please contact the Aboriginal Health Department at 250- 370-8914.

Special Achievements: 

While working with First Nations communities on diabetes and nutrition issues, community nutritionist Fiona Devereaux, learned and recognized the immensely important connection and knowledge of traditional food practices among all First Nations people and their communities.
Searching for a way to revitalize this knowledge and share it with the communities especially the youth, Devereaux along with members of the South Island Nations, her coworkers Erin Rowsell, Jen McMullen, Kate Kittredge, and Sue Schaefer and Vancity created the Feasting for Change project in May 2007.
The initial Feast occurred in T’Sou-ke First Nation. Representatives were invited from each Nation in the southern half of Vancouver Island to share a meal of crab, halibut, salmon, and other traditional foods made using traditional methods. Elders and youth shared stories and ideas about how to “bring people together” and “get back to the basics” by honouring and sharing knowledge and expertise held by the community Knowledge Keepers.
This first feast served as a guide in organizing the 16 that have followed since. Communities across Vancouver Island have enjoyed the practices of pit cooking, eating food found locally, and creating meals together while sharing stories and ideas. For many, these Feasts have reignited the traditional ways of preparing food.

Testimonies / Comments: 

"It was so nice to have the families and friends together and having good times around our food"
“Only about 2 of my friends eat seafood.... but that day, all of them were eating seafood it was so great to see!"
"People don't really get together a lot anymore, as a community, but everyone was together that day".
“This is the first time I have tried these foods or seen food cooked in the ground.”
“I feel proud about how the old people used to do things.”
“I miss these foods, it is so nice to have them, my body always feels better when I eat them.”

Project Purpose: 

Reconnection to Food, Land and Culture and Connect with Elders and Youth. Set the table around the old way and old food and see what happens...

Project Leader: 
Feasting for Change working group
Contact Person: 

Fiona Devereaux

Contact Email: 

Little Shuswap Community Garden

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Little Shuswap’s Community Garden Project (this is a “before” picture.)

Welcome to our soon-to-be Community garden! Thanks to the New Horizons for Seniors Program for providing funding. The garden is located outside the new Wellness Centre and is accessible to the local day care as well.
We will be involving community members in the planting, harvesting and preservation stages of food, with the hope that they will become interested in growing their own gardens. We will also have a traditional plants garden, that will also provide an outdoor gathering place, where local knowledge and skills can be exchanged.

Project Purpose: 

The goal of this project is to bring together community members to share their skills in gardening, food preservation and cooking.

Project Leader: 
Laura Jameson
Contact Person: 

Molly Tomma or Serena Caner

Contact Email: 

Coastal Guardian Watchmen Network

The Coastal Guardian Watchmen Network is made up of First Nations on the North and Central Coast of British Columbia who act as the eyes and the ears on our traditional lands and waters to protect valuable cultural and natural resources.

We monitor the impacts of resource activities such as fishing, logging and tourism, on the health of species that are important to our people. We have the authority under our traditional laws to protect important wildlife species such as bears and wolves, food sources such as crabs, salmon, and shellfish, and significant cultural resources such as middens, village sites and traditional harvesting grounds.
As neighbouring Nations we hold a common vision to protect the resources in our territories.

Through the Coastal Guardian Watchmen Network, we are working together with a united presence on BC’s coast to ensure that rules and regulations are enforced and avoid harmful impacts to our cultural and natural resources. Look for us out on the water – we are the ones flying the Guardian Watchmen flag.

Contact Person: 

Claire Hutton

Healing through the Art of Storytelling - Stseptekwle Festival

The Healing through the Art of Storytelling – Stseptekwle Festival is an annual event that consist of a series of interactive and participatory activities that take place from May to October. The festival organizes the time and space for artists, mentors and participants of all age groups and levels of storytelling ability (advanced, intermediate, and beginner) to come together to share cultural teachings and express present day experiences in a positive, supportive and compassionate environment. Following the theme of food, land and culture, intermediate and advanced storytellers have the opportunity to profile and model their artistic skills and abilities through traditional storytelling methodologies. Beginners are given an opportunity to develop their talent through either retelling a traditional story in the oral tradition, or using modern tools and technology to create their own story of present day experiences using a variety of media (including creative writing and poetry, dance, music, visual and performance, or digital video). Artists/mentors work in cooperation with individuals and organizations to facilitate participation in the storytelling workshops and activities as a means of tracking, evaluating, reflecting upon and sharing stories about their participation in community food related action.

Some examples of storytelling domains are:
Food – hunting, fishing, gathering, gardening, traditional food preparation, preservation and technology, relationship to food, healthy eating.
Land – relationship to the land, spirituality, place and belonging, stewardship, survival
Culture – traditional knowledge, values, language, cross cultural sharing, contemporary influences, active living
Social – residential school, cycle of oppression, mental/emotional health, networking (friends & family), self awareness, community/project development

Project Purpose: 

It has been recognized that although there have been several attempts in the past to improve the collective health and well being of the Secwepemc through various food, land, culture and youth related projects, there has been an inability to bring together adequate numbers of individuals and organizations from all four of neighbouring Adams Lake, Little Shuswap, Neskonlith and Splatsin Indian bands in B.C. to collaborate and participate in the various projects.

Many have witnessed the breakdown of traditional social networks that are necessary for maintaining community food security networks and cohesive relationships based on mutual reliance and trust. Re-establishment of tribal values that underlie healthy, interdependent social networks will require working in the affective domain towards attitudinal and behavioural change.

Project Leader: 
Denise Michel, Community Facility Director - Adams Lake Recreation and Conference Centre
Contact Person: 

Denise Michel

Contact Email: 

Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities Indigenous Foods Network


The Vancouver Island & Coastal Communities Indigenous Food Network is a collective of passionate and dedicated members with a shared vision of a healthy future based upon reconnecting with First Nations cultural teachings and practices. The membership is made up of health professionals, community development workers, members of the scientific community and culturally knowledgeable food managers and gatherers.

Essentially, the Vancouver Island & Coastal Communities Indigenous Food Network aims to build collaborative approaches in addressing issues of traditional food access and security. Moreover, the Vancouver Island Traditional Food Network intends to research, document and share the ancestral strengths that are deeply rooted throughout Vancouver Island for the preservation for future generations.

Another goal of the Vancouver Island & Coastal Communities Indigenous Food Network is to meaningfully engage with first nations elders and youth. The Vancouver Island Traditional Food Network believes very strongly in the importance of continuing the transferal of traditional knowledge to the next generations. The Network promotes opportunities for first nations communities and their youth and elders to revitalize traditional teachings and to breathe life back into these practices

To work together to recognize, maintain and enhance the traditional food systems on Vancouver Island and to honor and celebrate the cultural knowledge and holistic values of the First Nations people.

Special Achievements: 

To provide opportunities for people from rural and isolated communities to participate the Vancouver Island & Coastal Communities Indigenous Food Network has developed a rotating regional meeting approach across Vancouver Island. On a quarterly basis gatherings are hosted in each of the four island regions. (North, West, East and South) These regions are represented by three primary First Nations – Coast Salish, Kwakwakala and Nuu-chah-nulth. Since time immemorial these respective Nations have developed, maintained and evolved food gathering, harvesting and preserving approaches that are specific to their bioregion
Celebration of traditional foods is a major part of the efforts put forth by the Vancouver Island & Coastal Communities Indigenous Food Network. The Network models this within each regional meeting that is held as well as through island-wide gatherings such as the Vancouver Island Traditional Foods Conference. The Vancouver Island Traditional Food Conference is an annual event that is collaboratively hosted at alternating locations across Vancouver Island. At these events there are many opportunities to share teachings, highlight key issues pertaining to traditional foods and to have fun!

Testimonies / Comments: 

Originally, the Vancouver Island Traditional Food Network was formed by like-minded folks interested in creating a collaborative approach to raise the profile of traditional foods on Vancouver Island. The first meeting took place in July 2008 as a follow-up to the Traditional Seafoods of V.I. Conference in April 2008. A Strategic planning session was held in September from which point the Network has continued to expand.

Thus far, the Vancouver Island Traditional Food Network has hosted gatherings in Snaw-naw-as (or Nanoose Bay), Tseshaht (or Port Alberni) and Fort Rupert. These gatherings have focused upon providing opportunities for first nations communities to identify food related issues that they are most affected by, as well as sharing traditional food teachings and knowledge and advocating for first nations management and practicing rights. The documented findings from each community gathering are circulated through an ever-growing email listserve. Future plans for the VI & Coastal Communities Indigenous Food Network include: the development of a website, a continuation of regional meetings throughout Vancouver island, further production of digital stories, and Position papers drafted with guidance from each first nation area regarding traditional food security issues.

Contact Person: 

Nitanis Desjarlais

Contact Email: 

Janice Rose Billy

Janice Rose Billy

Mentor, grassroots community leader, activist, volunteer, traditional harvester (berries and traditional medicines), organic gardener, role model, Secewepemc culture and language teacher, Doctor of Education.

Special Achievements: 

Completion of doctorate studies in Education - focusing on Secwepemc cultural revitalization.

Leading grassroots activist at the Skwekwekwelt Protection Centre - opposing land grab and ski resort development at Sun Peaks Ski Resort. Published author and founder/Director for the Lakes Secwepemc Sustainable Community Building Society.

Testimonies / Comments: 

I don't know anyone else who harvests, grows and preserves as much food for her family. Janice is one of the hardest working women in our community and is an amazing role model. Janice has a tremendous amount of respect in our community and deeply understands the importance of working towards protecting the remaining fragments of Secwepemc land and culture.