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Throughout the interviews, it was evident that colonial influences had negatively impacted the lives of the Takla Lake First Nation. There has been considerable industrial activity in this area since the 1960’s when the British Columbia Railway (BCR) first encroached in their region. Logging, sawmills, and mining are now industries that are prominent throughout the territory. Once industry came to the area, there was a considerable shift from a subsistence lifestyle to one that has been introduced to western ideologies. Band demographics shifted; this community was once made up of a younger population, but now many of the youth move to either Fort St. James or to Prince George to continue their education or for employment For the elders I spoke with, diet and cultural change are synonymous with the encroachment of industry since the 1960s. When I asked people specifically if their diet had changed over the past 40 years, and if so why, they answered that once industry came into their territory they were exposed to a western diet and way of life. Elders in their late 70’s, early 80’s didn’t hesitate to discuss the impact on their diet from the opening of the Hudson’s Bay Trading Post in their community. They gave me examples of trading their furs for food and being given corn flakes but not knowing what to do with them.
More recent changes to diet in the youth are traced to the influence of television and media. Elders often discussed how they were trying to teach the children their traditional ways but the younger children especially were easily influenced by advertising.
The introduction of roads, a wage economy and electronic communications therefore represent ongoing colonial influences at work that, from the point of view of the elders I spoke with, are central to changes in diet, especially amongst younger generations in the community.
Sense of Place
The community of Takla Landing was established in the 1950’s. Many of the current community members moved there at that time and have lived there ever since. However, it is interesting to note that when I asked if they are from Takla and have they ever lived anywhere else they all answered that they were not from Takla but gave the names of their keyohs surrounding the area such as Aikan Lake, Johanson, or Old Hogem. It is evident that although they have lived in this community most of their lives, their home is still their traditional territory and not government enforced space.
There are still hunters and gatherers amongst the Takla Lake First Nation but they are continually being alienated from their territory. People identify themselves based on geography but if that landscape is destroyed, so is their identity. Elders often tried to tell me about the spiritual connection they have to the land but felt that there were no English words that could describe this powerful relationship. By restricting land use we are also restricting their right to a healthy food system.
The public health implications of this deep rooted sense of place are critical. Ongoing land conflicts and threats to hunting, trapping, and fishing rights are essentially public health and food security issues when working with First Nations.
Merging of Western and Traditional Diets None of the people I interviewed subsist on a traditional diet alone. If given the choice, most people prefer a traditional diet and often discuss stories around hunting or fishing.
Many people said that sometimes they eat western food for a change or they eat western and traditional foods together.
Nutrition education should recognize that diet, as an expression of culture, is constantly evolving. It has already been determined that a traditional diet is a very healthy diet, but a western diet can also have its nutritional benefits. The merging or integration of the two can be viewed as a cultural response to changing social and environmental conditions and there is an important role here for public health and nutrition specialists. Costs associated with maintaining a traditional diet along with work and/or family commitments may prevent people from hunting or fishing as much as they would like to. The ability to have the option of a western diet is not without merit. However, nutrition education must centre on healthy food choices that compliment rather than seek to replace traditional diets.
While the findings of this research are preliminary, it is evident that the one thread that runs through all themes is that the impacts of colonial influences which include industrial development, forced relocation, and western ways of knowing all have negative impacts on the health of this community. However, it is important to recognize that the community of Takla Landing is not an isolated case. First Nations communities throughout Canada in general and British Columbia in particular have faced drastic changes to their way of life due to industrial development and a western way of knowing forced upon them. It is time to recognize that First Nations have lived off the land since time immemorial and have thrived. They know how to ensure the health of their environment but are constantly being faced with the threat of environmental degradation from industry. Meaningful consultation and accommodation is essential to strengthen the First Nations way of knowing.
References Che, J. & Chen., J. (2003). Food insecurity in Canadian households (Statistics Canada Report): Statistics Canada.
Duhaime, G., & Godmaire, A. (Eds.) (2002). The conditions of sustainable food security.
An integrated conceptual framework. In Duhaime, G., & Godmaire, A. (Eds.) Sustainable food security in the arctic: State of knowledge (15-45). Quebec City: CCI Press.
First Nations Health Commission, Assembly of First Nations. (1993). Second International Conference on Diabetes and Native Peoples: Sociocultural Approaches in Diabetes care for Native Peoples. Paper presented to the First Nations Health Committee, Vancouver, B.C.
Hanley, A. J., Harris, S.B., Gittelsohn, J., Wolever, T, MS., Saksvig, B & Zinman, B.
(2000). Overweight among children and adolescents in a Native Canadian community: prevalence and associated factors. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71, 693-700.
Holben, D. H. M., & Myles, W. (2004). Food insecurity in the United States: its effect on our patients. American Family Physician, 69(5), 1058-1063.
Paci, C.D.J., Dickson, C., Nickels, S., Chan, L., & Furgal, C. (September, 2004). Food security of northern indigenous peoples in a time of uncertainty. Paper presented at the 3rd NRF Open Meeting, Yellowknife and Rae Edzo, Canada.
Willows, N.D. (2005). Determinants of healthy eating in Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
Canadian Journal of Public Health, 96 (Suppl. 3), S32-S36.
APPENDIX D: HEALTHY LAND HEALTHY FUTURE: Interim Report 2006 Healthy Land Healthy Future Project
Healthy Land Healthy Future Interim Project Report Prepared by: Sylvia Jack, Research Assistant Jessica Place, Research Associate Pamela Tobin, Project Coordinator Project Description Part of traditional knowledge includes the hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering practices of the First Nations people. These activities are being threatened by both the real risk of environmental contamination as well as by the fear of contamination. This research project is motivated by these fears, which have led to people limit their traditional food gathering practices.
Traditional diet is important to the health of all First Nations people, but a fear of contaminants is one of the leading reasons that people change to a western diet. Research has shown that the switch from a traditional to a western diet can harm First Nations’ health. Historically, traditional foods have been readily available and accessible, but in recent years, the fear of contaminants has restricted hunting, trapping, fishing, and gathering activities. Promoting well-informed, responsible and sustainable land and water use are essential for protecting the health of First Nations.
The overall goals of this study are:
1. To identify sources of contaminants from past and present industry,
2. To identify the type and extent of contamination
3. To understand the impact of these contaminants on human and environmental health The importance of this project is that it serves to develop the capacity of the people in Takla Landing and Tsay Keh Dene to deal with environmental concerns affecting their health and diet. These concerns, which have come about because of past development, will only increase with the current and future expansion of industry into their territory.
We hired and trained people from the two communities – Margo French (TLFN) and Dennis Izony (TKD) – and provided education workshops and training in sampling techniques. Community members were trained by Margo and Dennis and whenever they went in the field, someone from the community would travel with them and learn how to collect samples. We felt that this aided in building capacity within the communities.
An initial community meeting was organized in Takla, followed by band member participation in the surveys. Contact with band members through workshops and information sessions on reserve are being provided to ensure that all members are advised of the progress as the project unfolds.
This study has taken a holistic approach to identifying contaminated sites in the traditional territories of Takla Lake First Nation (TLFN) and Tsay Keh Dene (TKD). The project is based in Prince George and the research is carried out in the territories of TLFN and TKD. We interviewed people in Takla Landing and Tsay Keh Dene to find out where areas of concern are located. Interviews also told us about traditional diet and how dependent people are on traditional foods. Once we located sites that community members were concerned about, we took soil and water samples that were sent to UNBC for analysis.
Project Progress to Date Activities from the first phase of the project have either been completed or will be completed by the end of the funding period of April 2007. A summary has been provided below which outlines the activities that have been initiated from the onset of the project up to the end of November, 2006.
Prior to organizing the logistics of this project, Pam Tobin, project coordinator, met with the former project coordinator of a neighbouring band (Nakazdli) who held funding from Health Canada for this type of project in previous years. The goal of this meeting was to determine any obstacles they faced but also to ascertain how they coordinated the staff, the sampling collection, and transportation in and out of the communities of supplies and/or samples. Due to their close proximity to Takla Landing, we continued to work with this band throughout the summer when supplies needed to be couriered to the community.
Once funding was secured, we hired staff and hosted a gathering in Takla Landing inviting the community to learn about the project. There were approximately 40 people in attendance along with the Chief, band manager, and two councilors. Dr. Lito Arocena, Principal Investigator and Associate Professor at UNBC, attended this meeting and described what we were doing and why. The Chief and council advised the community members that they fully support this project and the people present were keen to become involved.
A gathering was not held in the community of Tsay Keh due to timing conflicts and events within the community which took priority. Dr. Arocena trained the staff in both communities in sample collection and how to GPS the sample areas. The field staff was trained and ready to sample once the interviews commenced.
A total of 76 community surveys were conducted. Based on the results of these surveys, approximately 300 soil and water samples were extracted within the two territories throughout the summer months. The first group of interviews consisted of the identification of potentially contaminated sites that community members are concerned about. The data collected from these interviews determined the sites that were sampled.
The second group of interviews consisted of questions regarding traditional diet, geographic locations of where food is harvested and identification of any decline in harvesting practices. These interviews were transcribed by the research assistant and analyzed by the project coordinator. Soil and water sampling was conducted throughout the summer months of both territories and brought to UNBC for analysis.
Further to the work being done in the field, an academic literature review was completed which is an important way to learn more about the connection between the environment and human health. The literature review covered environmental contaminants and their associated risks to human health and provided a theoretical grounding for risk research.
This report also reviews the current literature on environmental contaminants and focuses on the impacts of these toxins on First Nations’ health due to the culturally specific ways in which the lands and resources are used and valued by Aboriginal peoples. A general and academic literature search was also conducted to determine past and present industrial activity on the territories which include mining, forestry, and the establishment of transportation corridors. Finally, a comprehensive list of past and present industrial sites within the territories is being compiled through the examination of past records and surveys of community members. The potential types of contaminants associated with the industrial activities will also be identified. This information will be used to triangulate the qualitative data that was collected.