FLATHEAD RESERVATION — The CSKT Food Sovereignty Program and the People’s Food Sovereignty Program continue their work to provide nutritious local food and promote tribal food sovereignty through a variety of food projects available across the Flathead Reservation, albethey separately.
“We’re working on the Fresh and Local program,” said Trina Fyant, CSKT Food Sovereignty Program consultant. “We want to process local produce in our kitchen at Kicking Horse.
“We hope to distribute those in addition to the regularly scheduled meals at senior tribal centers through the Elders program,” Fyant said. One of the primary goals is to reduce the amount of processing and prepping that cooks must do. “We hope to deliver them food that can be added to a meal or meals that clients can take home.”
While they want to focus on making the process of providing meals easier, there is another concern that on days or weekends when Elders do not pick up meals, they are not getting the nutrition and nourishment they require. It’s one of the main reasons they want to have nutritious food on-hand and save the cooks the extra work, as many of them will volunteer a significant amount of time to process and prepare food.
However, the Fresh and Local program currently has ground to a halt due to a slow hiring process. The CSKT Food Sovereignty program was unaware of how lengthy the hiring process can be. They require a program manager, as well as warehouse workers/drivers and production cooks.
According to Fyant, there are hundreds of meals to distribute and a number of locations to cover; more hands are needed to complete the task, and the sooner they have people hired, the more people they can feed nutritious food.
“Children are the biggest need besides the Elders,” Fyant said. The CSKT Food Sovereignty program aspires to reach out to some of the area’s schools. They have until the end of the year to use the Headwaters Foundation funding, and they intend to make good use of it this summer.
Because the hiring process has been ongoing since January, they are considering turning to emergency hiring because April is quickly approaching.
This year, the People’s Food Sovereignty program received three grants from the First Nations Development Institute to expand its capacity and focus on environmental conservation, especially for natural grasslands and forage, and wildlife, particularly big game. They are increasing capacity, revamping programs, and forming new collaborations.
The People’s Food Sovereignty program is concluding their second year of distributing elk and deer meat, and will be expanding their project with Montana State University this summer.
Within a year, they increased their capacity from more than 300 to more than 700 participants, more than doubling their capacity. They were also able to distribute lake trout from the Fish Keepers program, as well as other traditional beef cuts, like beef heart, tongue, and kidneys.
They have a tribal hunter list, with more than 15 CSKT member hunters volunteering to provide elk and deer meat. “We appreciate the support from tribal membership and program participants,” said co-founder Patrick Yawakie.
They will be working on dry meat processing and meal preparation.
“We will also be collaborating with Glacier Lake School on a Mother Garden,” said Yawakie. And they will continue their second year of distributing garden boxes, soil, compost, plants, and tools to tribal communities across the Flathead Reservation.
“We will continue to focus on providing tribal households with access to traditional meats, decolonizing diets, and ensuring that there is food available to supplement that over time,” said Yawakie.
Yawakie was asked by Char-Koosta News if the two programs would collaborate more in the future, given that ideas and development plans had already been shared. Yawakie hopes for more collaboration because it can be beneficial for programs with similar goals to work together.