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Kluane First Nation tackles food insecurity

Building a community garden and greenhouse will help the Kluane First Nation feed itself and generate economic prosperity, according to a research report.

Building a community garden and greenhouse will help the Kluane First Nation feed itself and generate economic prosperity, according to a research report.

The First Nation partnered with the Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research over a six-month period after becoming concerned with its long-term food sustainability, said Norma Kassi, indigenous collaborator for the institute.

“The idea for a community garden and greenhouse is part of an economic initiative by the community,” she said.

“They wanted people to be trained and working there constantly, to be able to market the produce to local restaurants and KFN citizens.”

Other recommendations included encouraging more agricultural projects, increasing community celebrations and raising awareness about the importance of healthy eating practices.

The institute trained two local youth to help Kassi carry out a series of interviews with citizens of the First Nation, to get more insight on their thoughts about food insecurity.

The research had four objectives: to gather local experiences with climate change and its effects; to find ways KFN citizens can ensure local, nutritious food is available; to identify ancient methods of conservation for the community; and to discuss options for a food security strategy.

The youth, Jared Dulac and Alanna Dickson, were trained on conducting community-based research and also learned how to shoot and produce a short film.

The footage they shot will be featured in a 20-minute documentary.

The community’s two oldest elders were interviewed about their thoughts on the community’s long-term food sustainability and access to clean water.

The elders encouraged a return to ancient methods of conservation.

“For example, in the winter months of January, February and March, that’s when people start needing fresh food from the land,” Kassi said.

“The elders would like to see hunters go out on community hunts, and bring the animals back to the community to share with single parents and children in particular. They also talked about stopping the hunt of species that are in decline, such as caribou, and switching to others, such as bison.”

In October, Environment Yukon asked hunters to help curb the territory’s growing wood bison population.

Following last summer’s census, there were an estimated 1,470 animals in the herd, almost 500 over the target set in a 2012 management plan.

Kassi said declining food sources has a huge impact on indigenous people, not only in the Yukon but elsewhere in Canada.

“It’s happening in the N.W.T., in Nunavut, in Labrador too,” she said.

“Caribou herds are on the decline and it’s a huge concern. This is our food.

“We’re not accessing as much salmon as we used to so hard times are coming. This is where elders are saying it’s time to come together and start planning for long-term food sustainability.”

The First Nation is now trying to access funds to build the community garden and greenhouse, Kassi said.

Contact Myles Dolphin at