News

TRU joins unique Indigenous ranching partnership

The Skeetchestn Indian Band has initiated partnerships with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (TteS) and Thompson Rivers University (TRU) to create an innovative partnership that teaches Indigenous students how to run a business using traditional and Western land practices, and food sovereignty through the Applied Sustainable Ranching (ASUR) Certificate.

This partnership, Elkstwewc ne tmicw — Working Together on the Land — has been funded $300,000 from the BC First Nations Post-Secondary Partnership Program. Students take the Applied Sustainable Ranching Certificate offered by distance learning, but also participate in work practicums and workshops with ranches and farms within Secwépemc communities. The Secwépemc Nation’s food sovereignty stakeholders have built the foundation for this partnership for the past two years.

There are still spaces available for two ASUR intakes: Sept. 7 of this year, and May 2 of 2022. Interested students should apply at least two weeks before these start dates. Anyone can apply, but funding is only for Indigenous students, with priority given to Skeetchestn and TteS community members.

Students earn the TRU ASUR credential, learning skills around regenerative agriculture, traditional and cultural land use practices. This includes grazing management, riparian management, invasive species, managing soils, biodiversity and financial/business management.

Elkstwewc ne tmicw will fill some much-needed gaps in the Skeetchestn community, where the band owns three ranches that are leased out or not in use because there aren’t enough community members with the knowledge or support to make them sustainable and profitable.

“Food sovereignty, or our ability to take control over our food, is so important to make sure our youth do not lose the traditions of the past. This program will help ensure our Indigenous practices are incorporated into the teachings,” said Terry Denault, Skeetchestn Elder advisor to the program.

In the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Skeetchestn Indian Band and TteS have seen growing interest among members to become more self-sustaining through community gardens and greenhouses.

“The traditional foods and medicines of the indigenous Secwépemc people are increasingly being threatened by climate and social crises. In fact, Health Canada reports that Indigenous communities are at three and a half times higher risk of household food insecurity; so, funding to support training will have an extremely positive impact,” said TteS Kukpi7 Roseanne Casimir.

“Building capacity around food sovereignty and land-based learning will ultimately support the health of the community and enable our Secwépemc Nation to be more resilient – particularly to meet the challenges of the recent pandemic.”

Contacts:

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc

Chief Kukpi7 Roseanne Casimir

Kukpi7.roseanne@kib.ca | 250-819-2255

Terry Denault, Skeetchestn Indian Band

tdeneault@skeetchestn.ca | 250-373-2401

Baldev Pooni, TRU Dean of Trades and Technology

bpooni@tru.ca | 250-828-5110

Gillian Watt, TRU Applied Sustainable Ranching Program Co-ordinator

Williams Lake campus

gwatt@tru.ca | 250-319-2367

Background:

This is a new partnership offered in the Secwepemc communities of Skeetchestn and Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc. The intent is to have this program work collaboratively with other Indigenous food security initiatives throughout the Secwépemc Nation.

The success of this program is in the extensive work practicums that each student receives that pertains to the type of agriculture they would like to specialize in and will assist communities with their agricultural needs. Some examples are market garden, greenhouse and livestock production. As part of this program, each student will complete a business plan, which will include two or more enterprises that they would like to pursue. On the program completion the students will present their business plans to a panel of experienced agriculture producers and community elders, for their feedback and ideas.

Other organizations that have been involved with this initiative include the Q’wemstin Health Society, Skeetchestn Community School Food Forest Initiative, Community Futures Development Corp. of Central Interior First Nations, Kamloops Food Policy Council and TteS Food Sovereignty Advisory Committee. Together, they created an Indigenous agricultural situation assessment that recommended:

  • Creating a distributed Indigenous agriculture and food education program to be delivered in local First Nation communities
  • Creating a farmer/educator program including curriculum and protocols
  • Working toward the creation of an Indigenous agriculture program that removes barriers and honors Indigenous knowledge, teachings and practices.