Join Us in Supporting Food Security for Birch Narrows/Turnor Lake Community

By Bev Hadland, Ambassador to the First Peoples

Proverb 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he/she should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This timeless wisdom underscores the importance of early education and its lasting impact. This understanding sheds light on why there was a government initiative to enroll children as young as four years old into residential schools. The repercussions of this policy were devastating, tearing apart language, culture, and family ties, leaving behind generations marked by pain and trauma. Despite the closure of the last residential school in Canada in 1994, the wounds still run deep for thousands of survivors.

Research from Harvard Health emphasizes the critical period of early childhood for learning, suggesting that between the ages of 2 and 7 is optimal for acquiring new skills and languages. This underscores the significance of providing enriching educational experiences during this formative stage to empower children for lifelong success.

Amidst these reflections, we are delighted to spotlight the inspiring initiatives taking root in the remote reserve of northern SK.

Witnessing the sheer delight on the faces of 5–7-year-olds as they engage in harvesting vegetables as part of their school curriculum fills me with immense joy. Under the passionate leadership of Rebecca Sylvestre, Director of the Turnor Lake/Birch Narrows Community Centre, efforts to promote ‘food security’ are all-encompassing. It’s remarkable to see children actively engaged in activities like digging up beets, emblematic of the community’s holistic approach to education, which includes cultural teachings, outdoor excursions, and traditional skills like baking and beadwork.

Since its inception, the Community Centre has been a beacon of hope, actively working to undo the damage of residential schools. The outcomes are tangible, with no youth suicides in the past six years, increased high school graduation rates, and a decline in violence and diabetes..

Historically, Indigenous communities sustained themselves through gardening until forced relocation disrupted their traditional way of life. Since my initial visit in 2017, the Birch Narrows community has made remarkable progress, with the number of home gardens increasing from 3 to over 50 since 2017. Support from organizations like Crossroads Cares/First Peoples Voices (FPV), supplying non-GMO seeds, ensures sustainable produce for generations to come. Please watch an interview on the community center that Cheryl did on 100 Huntley Street.

Looking forward to 2025, the community’s ambition to see every household with a garden is both inspiring and attainable. However, they need our support to make it happen. A contribution toward their $62,000 budget for tools, soil, seeds, and equipment like a Bobcat can make a tangible difference. Will you consider helping them achieve this goal with a financial investment that will aid in food security?

As we embark on this journey with them, let us offer our prayers for blessings over this project. Birch Narrows/Turnor Lake embodies resilience and hope, with community members dedicated to food security and cultural revitalization. Let’s stand together with them, extending our love and friendship as they pave the way for a brighter future.