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Deconstructing Dinner: Exploring Ethnobiology I: Preserving traditional foodways among indigenous youth

As people throughout the Western world are increasingly seeking to reconnect with their food, there's a lot to be learned from the many peoples who have long maintained these dynamic relationships between their sustenance and the earth. Ethnobiologists research these very relationships through a scientific lens and it's a field of study bringing together many disciplines like anthropology,ecology and conservation to name just a few.

Deconstructing Dinner believes ethnobiology is a subject deserving close attention for anyone interested in food security, food sovereignty and local food system conservation and development.

In May 2010, Jon Steinman travelled to Vancouver Island to attend two gatherings on the subject in Victoria and Tofino. In this multi-part series, we'll explore what the Society of Ethnobiology describes is the "search for valid, reliable answers to two 'defining' questions: "How and in what ways do human societies use nature, and how and in what ways do human societies view nature?"

Part I

As is now commonly found among many indigenous communities worldwide, many youth have become significantly if not entirely disconnected from the traditional ways of their ancestors. One of the responses to this threat that some of those youth have employed is found among the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples whose territory stretches 300km along the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island. Nuu-chah-nulth (which translates to "all along the mountains and sea") are a family of 15 First Nations. Connecting some of their youth has been the Nashuk Youth Council - a project of Uu-a-thluk - the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council's Aquatic Management Board. The Youth Council has been seeking out stories and knowledge from their elders about their people's traditional foodways. Those stories and knowledge are in turn being shared digitally through short videos.

The Nashuk Youth Council took to the podium at the 12th International Congress of Ethnobiology hosted in Tofino, B.C.


Nickie Watts, Keenan Jules, Waylon Andrews, John Rampanen, Belinda Lucas, Damon Vann-Tarrant Rampanen, Letitia Rampanen, James Dakota Smith, Tseeqwatin Rampanen, Leonita Jimmy, Maui Solomon

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