By Samantha Hawkins
Not just the title of the new book commemorating Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI, formerly Big Trout Lake), but a reflection of a time when life revolved around hunting, fishing, gathering and gardening, ‘We are one with the land’ is a reminder to current generations to tend to that connection and en-root themselves.
Chief Donny Morris, the KI band council, economic development staff and entire community welcomed Cloverbelt Local Food Co-Op (CLFC) President, Jen Springett and Food Security Research Network (FSRN) Director, Connie Nelson into their remote, northern community last week as they worked together to gather information and create a strong partnership dedicated to creating local opportunities and sustainable solutions to improve food security for all remote communities.
Located 435 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout, the community of 1,300-plus residents has seen positive changes take place over the past few years. In 2012, Chief Donny worked with the FSRN to send four KI residents to Thunder Bay where they worked to acquire agriculture skills through hands on learning, clearing a large garden, tending to it, harvesting vegetables and trying new recipes for utilizing the harvest.
The four residents, including community member, Bill Albany, then returned to KI and promptly built a large community garden where local school children could help with harvest, sharing the process and results with the entire community, a process, Albany says, which is a key component in furthering themselves and regaining their connection with the land, stating strongly that: “Gardening is vital to who we are and where we go from here.”
Having overcome his addiction to soda, and finding physical and spiritual growth in the process, Albany is a strong advocate for fresh foods and maintaining ones connection with the land and advises anyone looking to make a lifestyle change to start at one.
“Pick one item that you can eliminate from your diet and start there. Everything starts with one.”
Words of wisdom gladly accepted by Chief Donny as he and the band council elected at the end of Springett and Nelson’s visit to become a producer member for the CLFC, agreeing to help facilitate the transfer of locally crafted items via air and CLFC volunteers to Dryden for sale on the online marketplace. One step towards a beneficial relationship that will see handcrafted and unique arts, crafts and mukluks brought to Dryden and surrounding areas while generating additional revenue for the community of KI.
The community is also considering shopping for local producers for their summer and community festivals, a move that Albany says will take some time to layout the framework and see what is available, but always positive, Albany is sure that great things will come ‘once we start stepping in the right direction’ and maintains, “You can move a mountain if you put your heart into it.”