Toronto Metropolitan University
ijerph-17-08113.pdf (2.22 MB)

Harvest Programs in First Nations of Subarctic Canada: The Benefits Go Beyond Addressing Food Security and Environmental Sustainability Issues

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-09, 14:28 authored by Leonard J. S. Tsuji, Stephen R. J. Tsuji, Aleksandra M. Zuk, Roger Davey, Eric LiberdaEric Liberda

By breaking down barriers that impacted the ability of subarctic First Nations people to harvest waterfowl, the Sharing-the-Harvest program provided a safe, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food (i.e., geese) to James Bay Cree communities while also helping to protect the environment by harvesting overabundant geese. However, the impacts extend beyond those described above. Thus, the objectives of the present paper are twofold: to document the food sharing networks of the Sharing-the-Harvest program; and to examine the benefits associated with the harvest program beyond food security and environmental sustainability issues, as revealed through semi-directed interviews. In the regional initiative, harvested geese were shared with all James Bay communities; sharing is an important part of Cree culture. Where detailed information was collected, the goose-sharing network reached 76% of the homes in one of the communities. Likewise, in the local initiative, the goose-sharing network had a 76% coverage rate of the homes in the community. Although decreasing food insecurity was an important focus of the harvest-sharing programs, there were other benefits, from an Indigenous perspective, of being on the land, as identified by the Cree harvesters through semi-directed interviews (e.g., the transmission of Indigenous knowledge, the strengthening of social networks, and the feeling of wellness while out on-the-land). Thus, by participating in the on-the-land harvest programs, the Cree gained benefits beyond those solely related to strengthening food security and contributing in part to environmental sustainability. The Sharing-the-Harvest protocol has the potential to be adapted and employed by other Indigenous (or marginalized) groups worldwide, to help improve health and wellness, while, also protecting the environment from overabundant and/or invasive species.