This summer Plenty Canada will be kicking off the Ginawaydaganuc Project, a new food sovereignty program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ginawaydaganuc is a word from the Algonquin language that loosely translates as “the interconnection of all things.” It is an Algonquin principle outlining our responsibilities to each other and the earth.
Over the next several months Rosie Kerr, a post-doctoral fellow at Lakehead University, and Project Coordinator Sarah Craig will compile data on past and present food systems in Indigenous communities and examine what works, what doesn’t, and why. The end goal of the project is to create an informed digital platform where Indigenous people can learn and connect and share resources to build food sovereignty programs within their own communities.
The Ginawaydaganuc Project is being run in partnership with four Indigenous-led and Indigenous-serving organizations. These include Canadian Feed the Children, Northern Manitoba Food Community Culture Collaborative, the Northern Ontario Indigenous Food Sovereignty Collaborative, and, of course, Plenty Canada. This consortium of organizations aims to harness community relationships and experiences from 180 Indigenous communities spanning six provinces, with the potential to involve many more as the project leads the charge toward community-driven food system change.
But what is food sovereignty? It involves the right of a people to have access to healthy culturally appropriate foods, to grow and harvest foods produced through sustainable and ecologically sound methods, and for communities to define their own agriculture systems. It’s about having access to self-determination and security, both environmentally and economically, of food production and distribution.
These rights are also recognized under international policy such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Although aspects of food sovereignty are interwoven throughout the entire declaration, it is directly related to Article 3 (the right to self-determination), Article 7 (the right to physical and mental integrity, freedom, peace, and security), and Article 29 (the right to conservation and protection of the environment and productive capacity of their lands and resources).
Beyond meeting nutritional needs, food sovereignty plays many vital roles. After all, why not simply expand status quo, donated, ready to use food products? This already tenuous system was nearly completely derailed by COVID and left front line workers scrambling to meet the needs of those dependent on them. The project aims to build more resilient and independent food systems in Indigenous communities that can better handle adversity in the future. Lack of food accessibility is a symptom of a broader problem, namely colonization. Food sovereignty has the potential to provide healing through decolonization. It also facilitates connections to culture, community, environment and health, partly through revitalizing traditional agricultural practices that have a positive regenerative impact on the environment.
In creating this digital platform where Indigenous peoples can learn, connect, and share resources to build food sovereignty programs that are informed by traditional agricultural practices as well as modern farming methods, the Ginawaydaganuc Project hopes to make the most of food’s ability to provide connections to culture, healing, and security.
— Sarah Craig