The focus of our inquiry this year was exploring traditional First Peoples foods and practices, shared family recipes, and documentation of the essential relationship between people and wild salmon as “our most important Indigenous food and cultural and ecological keystone species in the forests, fields and waterways.” (Secwepemc matriarch Bernice Heather).
Rooted in the First Peoples Principles of Learning, our inquiry theme this year was
CONNECTION TO LAND AND PLACE: TRADITIONAL FOODS.
- How do food decisions affect our well-being in all areas of our lives?
- How can traditional methods of subsistence be preserved over time?
- What can we learn from Indigenous Peoples to help us conserve and restore BC salmon?
Students explored these questions through individual inquiry projects and through cross-curricular links to food throughout the year. This year we have continued to plant microgreens and to support our meals program and wheatgrass to juice for morning smoothies. In addition, we grew sxúsem “soopolallie” (soapberry) from seed and then transplanted it to the McQueen Lake environmental centre. In preparation for our Elder’s interviews, we planted wild tobacco seeds and gave the plants away as gifts. Elders from our community and surrounding areas came and shared their knowledge and experiences of traditional foods. The students brainstormed questions that they would like to know about the past and shared these questions with the Elders. We were also gifted with some sweetgrass which is thriving in our container garden, and we have started vegetables and are awaiting a fall crop. Students learned about a traditional Secwepemc pit cook with the support of Elder Bart Thomas. The students dug the pit, tended the fire, and prepared the food for cooking. Bart and the students explored ethnobotany in the area while they sourced out the herbs and spices used to flavour the food cooked in the pit. Wild mint was the perfect flavour on the roast and salmon. Travelling to Vancouver also allowed us to visit First Nations’ owned and operated businesses serving traditional foods in an urban setting.
Each year is a new adventure and it has been a privilege to learn with and from our students this year. The opportunity to observe them stretching outside their comfort zones, trying new things, and challenging themselves, is a gift. I am so grateful for the Elders and community members who were willing to share their time and knowledge with us throughout the year; it is often in those small moments where the most powerful learning takes place. We hope that these experiences will at the very least “plant a seed” in terms of healthy eating, conservation, and the sustainable future we all require.