Indigenous Food Sovereignty Summit 2018

Byron Beardy says a few years ago he had a vision to bring First Nation communities from across Manitoba together to answer the questions: what is Indigenous Food Sovereignty and how can we grow it in our Nations?

From June 19-21, people from across Manitoba and Canada gathered at the Indigenous Food Sovereignty Summit, for the second time since 2016, to grapple with these questions. On the second day of the summit, I met with Byron and he explained that the summit gathered members of Dene, Dakota, Anishinaabe, Cree and Oji-cree communities to share and learn from one another and revitalize the self-reliant spirit of Indigenous food systems.

The summit blended practical hands-on skill building for harvesting and growing with lessons that grounded Indigenous food in the past, leaders who looked forwards, and knowledge holders who carried the summit in ceremony. Developed with the guidance of Elders; through participation in ceremony; and through observation and experience working with communities around food, the Summit follows six teachings of Indigenous Food Sovereignty: Spirit and Celebration; Language; Women; Youth; Elders; and Land.

In his talk Connecting Food and Language, elder David Courchene Jr. connected food to the broader project of Indigenous resurgence and spoke of the responsibility that self-determination carries with it to do right thing. Byron expressed similar feelings in our conversation, explaining that after reflecting and speaking with elders, he realized that his vision couldn’t wait for permission from someone or something else, and began to see his food sovereignty work as a way of life. This same spirit of empowerment and enthusiasm revealed itself in all of the people I met and heard speak at the summit.

The summit occurs during the summer solstice every two years. The third summit is being planned for June 23-25, 2020.