The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Canada needs more independent media. And independent media needs you.

Did you know that most news organizations in Canada are owned by just a handful of companies? And that these companies have been shutting down newsrooms and laying off reporters continually over the past few decades?

Fact-based, credible journalism is essential to our democracy. Unlike many other newsrooms across the country, The Tyee’s independent newsroom is stable and growing.

How are we able to do this? The Tyee Builder program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip into our editorial budget so that we can keep doing what we do best: fact-based, in-depth reporting on issues that matter to our readers. No paywall. No junk. Just good journalism.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to be Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
News
  |  
Indigenous
  |  
Food

How Canada’s Oilsands City Is Supporting Indigenous Food Sovereignty

A new Métis Cultural Centre in Fort McMurray aims to revive traditional practices in an urban setting.

Missy Johnson 24 Jul 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Missy Johnson is an intern with The Tyee as a part of the Journalists for Human Rights Emerging Indigenous Reporter program. She is a recent graduate of the Langara College journalism program.

Genevieve Noel was in the room when Fort McMurray city councillors voted unanimously last month to provide almost eight acres for a Métis Cultural Centre.

Noel, a Métis woman and designer, said she had goosebumps as the votes were counted. The $22-million project offers a chance to reconnect with her Indigenous identity, she said.

And that includes exploring Indigenous food sovereignty as a solution to food insecurity, climate chaos and loss of culture, she said.

“As we were reconnecting with Indigenous culture, it just was so evident to me that the wisdom of traditional Indigenous culture is the way forward. We really need to embrace the Earth and really reconnect,” she said. “The spirituality was another layer that I really appreciate.”

Noel and her husband Maginnis Cocivera are founders of Mindful Homes, a North Vancouver architecture firm that hopes to facilitate “a seamless transition to the post-carbon era in response to climate change.”

The firm has been selected by McMurray Métis to design the project.

“It’s an honour to work with them and help bring all these things back,” Noel said. “It’s really a nice healing process to bring community together, and we want to present the project that way, like we’re all moving forward together, we’re not leaving anybody behind, and people can learn to live together again in a more positive way.”

Bill Loutitt, CEO of McMurray Métis, says Mindful Homes was chosen based on its approach to the project.

851px version of IMAGE1.MCC-Design.png
Rendering of the new Métis Cultural Centre in Fort McMurray, designed by Mindful Homes.

“We kind of like the presentation in that it’s a little bit back to the ’60s… but with a little bit more technological advances,” he said. “It’s going to really be an eyecatcher with just the design alone.

“This cultural centre has been on our minds for the last 30 years,” Loutitt said. “It’s not something that was brought up yesterday.”

Noel said the project will revitalize and celebrate the practice of Indigenous food sovereignty.

“We’re designing a totally regenerative project,” she said. “We have a huge food security component, so the whole rooftop is solar greenhouses for food security for the community.”

For communities like Fort McMurray — and First Nations in remote or northern locations across Canada — shipping costs mean access to fresh, organic fruits and vegetables is “so expensive, that it’s unattainable,” she said. “We will be growing lots of food.”

Noel said the project, on an island near the city’s downtown, won’t just involve food production.

“We’re rewilding the site with all the Indigenous plants for medicine and food, so all the berries, the traditional medicines,” she said. “We’re building wetland for bio-filtration of the water.”

And the project will meet standards for net-zero emissions, Noel said. “This will be the first project in Fort McMurray that doesn’t rely on the oil and gas industry… we’re healing the oilsands.”

Noel and Cocivera predict that 20,000 pounds of vegetables could be grown on the roof each year. The centre will also provide space to teach the practice of Indigenous food sovereignty.

“There’s a commercial kitchen on site, and that can be used to transform some of the produce into preserves… canning beets and that kind of thing,” Noel said.

Métis people are traditionally hunters and trappers, she said, and there is a specific protocol for handling animals that are killed.

“Being grateful for the animal and doing a proper spiritual acknowledgement,” Noel said. “They use the whole animal, right, nothing is wasted because it’s a life that’s been taken, so it’s really important to learn the protocol from Elders.

“That’s also knowledge that they want to be able to transmit from generation to generation,” Noel said. “And so, on site there will be… an outdoor space where they can undertake that cultural traditional practice.”

Eduardo Jovel, director of Indigenous Research Partnerships at the University of British Columbia, leads a project at UBC farm exploring Indigenous food security and sovereignty in urban settings.

Intergenerational teachings and giving people a space to learn are important, he said, and the project at UBC Farm provides that space. “The garden has become a place where people begin to reclaim their land literacy,” he said.

“Especially with people that have been uprooted from their traditional territories, they might not have a place to practise their own traditions, or they do not have access to knowledge that might be important to them to understand food sovereignty,” Jovel said. “So, Indigenous food security is what we focus mainly on, on medicines and traditional foods as a way to talk about food sovereignty, to talk about food security.

“The garden in some ways, it provides a venue for dialogue,” he said.

Cocivera says the Fort McMurray building will be a place for tourists to explore Indigenous traditions, but mostly it’s for the community, a place for government offices, family services and child care.

Loutitt said the centre will be an important place for people to learn about Métis practices and the history of the Métis people in Alberta. “It’s been kept under wraps for so long,” he said.

And Loutitt said it should also encourage “participation in the community, and not only in the arts and culture, but there’s business, there’s many areas that we should be more engaged on.”

Noel said McMurray Métis felt it was important that the project include a monument to Métis history, so the whole building was designed as a monument, she said. The current design features a figure-eight shape that suggests the infinity symbol, with a walkable green roof.

“It’s like a green roof that goes into the greenhouse on top, and it’s really very contemporary,” Noel said. “When we presented to the Elders, we weren’t sure how they would react to such a modern building, but they totally were really surprised.”

The project is still in the design phase, which could take another year. Construction, which could take two or three years, would start after that.

Noel hopes people recognize this project as the way forward.

“It’s looking to the future and showing a possible way forward for people, another way from the oil.”  [Tyee]

Read more: Indigenous, Food

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free.

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities

Do:

  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

Are You Concerned about Rising Support for Canada’s Far-Right Parties?

Take this week's poll