Since time immemorial, the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation people in northern Alberta have used Gipsy Lake to gather fish as a healthy source of food in the winter.
However, following the creation of the reserve system, the administrative base for the Nation became Janvier 194, a reserve located about 50 kilometres southwest of Gipsy Lake. Another body of water called Winefred Lake, located closer to Janvier 194, gained popularity as the primary source of fish for the community, and traditional food gathering from Gipsy Lake was gradually curtailed. Due to a lack of use over the decades, the trail to Gipsy Lake was overtaken by vegetation.
Improving access to traditional food practices
Last year, to improve access to an alternate fish source for the remote and underserved community, Food Banks Canada provided funding to the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation to restore the historic trail to Gipsy Lake. With a grant made possible through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Emergency Food Security Fund, the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation hired local labourers and rented equipment to clear roughly 25 kilometres of road.
After the project was completed, local fishermen shared the fish they caught with community members. Portions of fish were also submitted for contaminant testing as part of the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation’s community-based monitoring program to ensure the ongoing health of the crucially important food source.
Through this sustainable initiative, the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation reported not only being able to access a healthy food source and enhance their food security, but also keep their culture and traditions alive in the community.
“This project has led to intergenerational knowledge transfer ensuring that the next seven generations will know where and how to access fish to feed the community of Chipewyan Prairie,” the assistant to the chief of the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation wrote in the final project report. “This project has significantly contributed to our community’s food security.”