Mamaweswen kicks off food sovereignty summit in the Sault

Mamaweswen, the North Shore Tribal Council, invited its members to a community dinner at the Water Tower Inn Monday evening, which marked the beginning of its first-ever food sovereignty summit.

This event is scheduled to run over the next three days with the aim of generating solutions to what continues to be a pervasive issue amongst all seven North Shore First Nations.

CEO Allan Moffatt told The Sault Star that concerns surrounding food insecurity constantly come up during North Shore board meetings, which is why getting representatives from each community in a room together is such a necessity.

According to a 2023 study from Algoma Public Health, nearly one in five households in the region suffer from food insecurity, with Indigenous families being at a significantly higher risk due to various systems of oppression.

"We're trying to come up with answers to some questions like 'why do we have so many children going to school hungry?'" Moffatt said.

"Where did the notion of food being a privilege come from? Those sorts of tough questions are kind of bringing groups together to talk about that."

Andrew Judge (Mkomose), an assistant professor of Anishinaabe Studies at Algoma University, jump-started this process Monday evening by delivering a keynote speech on what food sovereignty meant to Indigenous communities in the past and how it can serve as a guiding light for action moving forward.

In the coming days, this food sovereignty summit will feature a variety of community presentations and additional keynote speakers, which will cover topics ranging from "youth resistance" to a breakdown of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory's livestock program.

The event will conclude with a Thursday morning tour of a former government tree nursery in Thessalon First Nation, known as Kinoomaagewin, that is being retrofitted by North Shore members to grow and distribute healthy food.

"So for the past year-and-a-half we've been revitalizing some of the greenhouses there, because they were old and falling apart," Moffatt said.

"We've got five of them that are getting ready to start producing food."

Mamaweswen represents seven First Nations situated along the north shore of Lake Huron in Robinson-Huron Treaty territory.

These communities are Atikameksheng Anishinawbek, Batchewana First Nation, Garden River First Nation, Mississauga First Nation, Sagamok Anishnawbek, Serpent River First Nation and Thessalon First Nation.

The North Shore Tribal Council's mandate is to assist and facilitate activities for these seven member communities in the realm of culture, economics, politics, environmental issues and social well-being.

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government

Kyle Darbyson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sault Star