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Handpicked: Stories from the Field

Presented by the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, Handpicked: Stories from the Field is a podcast series that showcases research that drives positive change in our food systems—ways we produce, gather, eat, understand and dispose of our food. Produced and hosted by Amanda Di Battista and Laine Young, the series presents compelling, real-life stories of food practitioners, such as farmers, policymakers and activists. Episodes follow researchers and community partners in their efforts to make their food systems more economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.

Oct 12, 2021

In this episode of Handpicked: Stories from the FieldMandy Bayha, Director for Culture, Language, and Spirituality for the Délįnę Got'įnę Government, talks with Dr. Andrew Spring about the importance of traditional knowledge and language for community wellbeing and resilience Délįnę, NWT. Beginning with a conversation about community resilience in the face of major crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic Mandy traces connections between colonialism, traditional economies, and food security and explainhow Elder knowledge and youth engagement inform all the work taking place in the community. 

Guests: Mandy Bayha & Andrew Spring 
Co-Producers & Hosts: Amanda Di Battista & Laine Young 
Sound Design & Editing: Adedotun Babajide  

Support & Funding
Wilfrid Laurier University
The Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems
Voicing Change: Co-creating Knowledge and Capacity for Sustainable Food Systems (SSHRC Funded)
Balsillie School for International Affairs 

Music Credits 
Keenan Reimer-Watts 

Neala McLeod 

Connect with Us:
Twitter: @Handpickedpodc
Facebook: Handpicked Podcast 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. How has the community of Délįnę respond to the pandemic? How is connection to the land fundamental to the way that the Sahtúot’įnę deal with crises? 

  2. In this episode, Mandy says that the Sahtúot'įnę people must “walk in the footsteps of our grandfathers and our ancestors who've come before us, who have been here for hundreds of thousands of years, since time immemorial.” What does this mean to Mandy? How do the Sahtúot’įnę see their Elders and ancestors?

  3. How is the community of Délįnę engaging with the youth? Why? What is the Délįnę Youth Council and why is it important?

  4. What is a traditional economy? Why is a thriving traditional economy important to the livelihoods of the Sahtúot’įnę?

  5. Délı̨nę is part of a comprehensive land claim, is a self-governed community, and has been recognized by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve. How to these governance structures impact the community’s vision for resilience and self-determination? 


Climate Change Adaptation 
“Climate change adaptation refers to actions that reduce the negative impact of climate change, while taking advantage of potential new opportunities. It involves adjusting policies and actions because of observed or expected changes in climate. Adaptation can be reactive, occurring in response to climate impacts, or anticipatory, occurring before impacts of climate change are observed. In most circumstances, anticipatory adaptations will result in lower long-term costs and be more effective than reactive adaptations.” 

“Elders are very important members of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit communities. The term Elder refers to someone who has attained a high degree of understanding of First Nation, Métis, or Inuit history, traditional teachings, ceremonies, and healing practices. Elders have earned the right to pass this knowledge on to others and to give advice and guidance on personal issues, as well as on issues affecting their communities and nations. First Nation, Métis, and Inuit peoples value their Elders and all older people and address them with the utmost respect.” 

Food Security  
Food security is the ability to access safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate, and sufficient food all year round. A person or community is food insecure when people cannot afford or have limited or no access to the food they need to nourish their bodies. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization state that “food insecurity can affect diet quality in different ways, potentially leading to undernutrition as well as. . . obesity.” 

Food Sovereignty 
“Food sovereignty is the peoples’, Countries’ or State Unions’ RIGHT to define their agricultural and food policy.” 

Indigenous Food Systems 
Within the context of the work described here, we maintain that Indigenous People are those who retain knowledge of the land and food resources rooted in historical continuity within their region of residence. The local food systems that they are currently using are those we define as “traditional food systems”, which invariably include some foods that may be used by many outside of the indigenous culture (e.g. salmon). In essence, we describe as “traditional foods” those foods that Indigenous Peoples have access to locally, without having to purchase them, and within traditional knowledge and the natural environment from farming or wild harvesting.” 

Informal Economy of Food 
Economies of food that emphasize “personal relationships, trust, and non-market values, which are inherently challenging to define and often impossible to quantify.” Informal economies of food are “spaces for non-traditional forms of innovation as well as opportunities for deep insights into social relationships, cultural meanings, and environmental values...and challenge us to think of economic systems in far more complex ways than mainstream economic theory would propose.” 

Land Claim 
“In 1973, the federal government recognized two broad classes of claims — comprehensive and specific. Comprehensive Claims: Comprehensive claims are based on the assessment that there may be continuing Aboriginal rights to lands and natural resources. These kinds of claims come up in those parts of Canada where Aboriginal title has not previously been dealt with by treaty and other legal means. While each claim is unique, frequently these claims include such things as land title, fishing, trapping, and resource rights and financial compensation – hence the "comprehensive". Specific Claims: Specific claims declare grievances over Canada's alleged failures to discharge specific obligations to First Nations groups. Land claim agreement: A term used by the federal government to refer to a negotiated settlement with a First Nation on lands, land usage, and other rights.” 

Land Stewardship 
“In its broadest sense, stewardship is the recognition of our collective responsibility to retain the quality and abundance of our land, air, water and biodiversity, and to manage this natural capital in a way that conserves all of its values, be they environmental, economic, social or cultural.” 

On the Land Camp 
“Camps on the land are a strong force for community development, bringing youth and elders together in a non-urban environment where traditional knowledge and skills can be passed on among generations through direct experience.” 

Reconciliation in Action 
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 2008 to document the experiences of residential school Survivors before, during and after their time in residential schools and to lay the foundation for a new relationship based on mutual respect and understanding in Canada.  

Throughout the TRC’s work, the process of healing and reconciliation evolved. Thousands of Canadians began to understand the depth of harm imposed on Indigenous Peoples and were inspired to take action to right past wrongs. Following the release of the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action, governments, organizations, corporations, churches and countless community groups started taking on new policies, projects and plans with the goal of mending the broken relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, communities and organizations. 

While there are many achievements to be celebrated, the hard work of reconciliation and structural reform necessary to transition this country into a respectful and safe place for Indigenous Peoples will take years. This presents a deep challenge for this nation — while the big work of changing the nature of our relationship at a structural level continues to evolve, the many forms of crisis experienced within Indigenous communities continues to rage. Children continue to be disproportionately represented in the child welfare system, suicide remains at epidemic levels in certain communities and Indigenous Peoples continue to experience a lesser quality of life than non-Indigenous people. 

Given the long history of broken promises and false hope, it remains difficult for many Indigenous communities to trust that meaningful change will occur. Sadly, the past history of Canada is littered with many aspirational ideas but little transformative change.  Reconciliation remains a massively complex exercise for this nation — one with great depths that many are only beginning to understand. Significant reform in the areas of law, legislation and justice must all occur. Likewise, deeply held racist conceptions of Indigenous Peoples must also be eliminated from society. All Canadians have been called upon to embrace this work, and each is asked to contribute to the overall work of reconciliation.” 

Self-Determination / Self-Government 
“The promise of self-government and the spirit behind that movement was that we were going to be self-determining, that it was going to give us our right to make decisions about our own future back to us where it belonged, where it should have never been taken to begin with.  And so, the idea behind self-governance as it relates to education is that we're going to teach our own children what's important to us, what the value, what our values are. And it's really important that, you know, we are teaching our children their way of life, who they are, their identity.” 

Mandy Bayha, discussing Délįnę Got’įnę Government in “We walk in the footsteps of our ancestors”: Traditional knowledge, youth engagement, and resilience in Délįnę 

Sustainable Food System 
Food systems that are “socially just, support local economies; are ecologically regenerative, and foster citizen engagement.” 

Traditional Food 
Traditional food, also called country food, describes traditional Indigenous food, including game meats, migratory birds, fish and foraged foods. In addition to providing nourishment, traditional food is an integral part of Indigenous identity and culture and contributes to self-sustainable communities. Environmental and socioeconomic changes have threatened food security, making traditional food more expensive and difficult to harvest. Despite these challenges, Indigenous communities, in partnership with various levels of government and non-profit organizations, continue to work towards improving access to traditional food. 

Traditional Knowledge 
“Although there is no universally accepted definition of “traditional knowledge,” the term is commonly understood to refer to collective knowledge of traditions used by Indigenous groups to sustain and adapt themselves to their environment over time. . . . Traditional Knowledge is usually shared among Elders, healers, or hunters and gatherers, and is passed on to the next generation through ceremonies, stories or teachings.”