First Nations and Factory Farming
Because First Nations reserves are considered federal lands they are subject to federal environmental regulations. Intensive livestock operations are regulated by provincial law so the implications of factory farm proposals bound for First Nations territory can be difficult to weigh. In 2003, Poundmaker First Nation Saskatchewan was presented with a 10,000-hog finishing barn proposal in west-central. When the band membership became aware of it, open informational meetings were organized by concerned members. The strong opposition to the hog barn forced the Chief and Council to terminate the contract with the hog company and abandon the project.
First Nations have also been affected by neighbouring factory farms. Many reserves endure poor water treatment and distribution infrastructure, and few have the resources to upgrade their facilities. This makes the impact of contaminated source water from intensive hog and cattle operations a serious concern. In 2006, the Swan Lake First Nation called for a halt to construction of a 4,400-head hog barn proposed a mile from their reserve.
First Nations and Socially Responsible Agriculture
The B.C. Food Systems Network Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty held a series of workshops in 2008. Their final report notes that the food sovereignty approach provides a framework for protecting, conserving, and restoring indigenous food systems as they relate to culture and circumstance.
Key principles of indigenous food sovereignty
- Sacredness – Food is a gift from the Creator; we have a sacred responsibility to nurture healthy, interdependent relationships with the land, plants, and animals that provide us with our food.
- Self-determination -The ability to respond to our own needs for safe, healthy, culturally-adapted Indigenous foods - the ability to make decisions over the amount and quality of food we hunt, fish, gather, grow and eat. Freedom from dependence on grocery stores or corporately controlled food production and distribution in market economies.
- Participatory - An action that is ultimately based on the day to day practice of maintaining our traditional food harvesting strategies and practices for the benefit of present and future generations. A cultural strategy that must be practiced at all of the individual, family and community levels.
- Policy - A strategy for influencing provincial, national, and international policies that are negatively impacting traditional land and food systems.
First Nations Organizations in Canada working on agriculture
Manitoba’s Southern Chiefs Organization includes an Agriculture Committee.
The First Nation Agriculture Association of British Columbia supports BC’s aboriginal farmers through financing and educational programs.
The Indian Agricultural Program of Ontario provides financing and educational support to Ontario First Nations farmers.
The Indigenous Environmental Network is a network of indigenous peoples empowering indigenous nations and communities towards sustainable livelihoods, demanding environmental justice and maintaining traditions.
Muskoday Organic Workers Co-op is creating community organic gardens in the hopes of making the reserve near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan more ecologically and economically sustainable
Civil Society Organizations supporting First Nation sustainable agriculture
Heifer Canada works with indigenous people in rural and urban communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth.
Other First Nation Organizations in Canada
The Assembly of First Nations is the national representative organization of First Nations in Canada. There are over 630 First Nations communities in Canada.
The Centre for Indigenous and Environmental Resources is a national, First Nation-directed environmental non-profit organisation with charitable status established in 1994 by a group of First Nation Chiefs from across Canada. CIER takes action on climate change, builds sustainable communities, protects lands and waters, and conserves biodiversity.