Indigenous harvesters concerned about proposed glyphosate spraying of forests near Chilliwack and Hope – Abbotsford News

When Indigenous health care provider Muriel Victor was a young child, she was brought along with the adults to harvest in the forest.

Wild berries, flowers, roots, bark and plants that some people consider weeds have all been harvested over the seasons and turned into food and medicine to be shared within the community.

Victor, a Stō:ló elder from the Cheam First Nation whose traditional name is Konisiya, says harvesting the forest and the land goes far beyond food and healing. It’s just part of who she is.

“It’s a feeling,” she says, as she walks the earth to harvest a crop. “We do it every year. It’s a part of us and it was a little girl who taught me that.

So the news that glyphosate is still being used in forests logged by Indigenous peoples, from Squamish to Hope, worries her. She relies on her niece, fellow certified herbalist Carrielynn Victor, to keep her up to date with information about the spray.

“It’s been a long-standing concern,” she says.

But the sprayed areas are not well published or well marked by authorities, and the latest five-year pest management plan that outlines the use of glyphosate says the sprayed areas are not suitable for cultural uses for two to four years.

“Carrielynn will say, ‘don’t go here or there, it’s sprayed.’ Otherwise, how am I supposed to know?” she says. “We don’t need more contaminants than we already live with. Why are we doing this to our environments?”

She was formerly the Director of Health Care at Cheam and is now the traditional Director of Wellness for the Chilliwack Division of Family Medicine. In this capacity, she works with patients and physicians to bring together the best of Indigenous healing and Western medicine.

This means working with natural flora like Oregon grape, elderberries and their flowers, maple blossom, mullein, thimbleberry, cedar bark and more.

“If the medical system doesn’t work for them, we can try traditional methods,” she said, and often with success. “And that’s what I’m doing here. Making the two worlds work together satisfactorily. »

It would be “crushing” for her to lose the ability to harvest land safely, she said.

“And it’s my right,” she said. “It makes me feel good to go out on the land and harvest.”

It’s something that brings her back to her childhood, and does the same for the elders in her life.

“Whenever I feel down, even if I don’t harvest anything, I go see what I can find,” she said. “It’s uplifting. I feel it helps me and my spirit, and the goal is to bring in a good harvest.

And then when she gets home, she says, she’s busy working with her hands, making sure the harvest is preserved for those who will need it.

“It’s the feeling, and then wipe that off,” she said, her words trailing off.

Making jam from wild berries is also a rite of passage for young Aboriginal children, and something that carries on from generation to generation.

“I was told we were doing this because that’s who we are,” she said. And although she is not a jam eater herself, as a member of the community she still harvests berries and makes her own jam. She uses it as a gift during a ceremony and gives it to those in need.

She said younger generations of Stō:ló are learning about harvesting and making it their own, making things like fruit leather, for example. For example, although fruit leather is a traditional food, it is a food that has been commercialized and is being made again in the traditional way.

But with the aerial spraying of glyphosate, many believe the way of life is in danger.

The days of public comment on the pest management plan, through BC Timber Sales in Chilliwack, are now over. Many were pleading with the government to extend the feedback period to allow more land users to consider it.

But Victor is not very hopeful that their voices will be heard, saying she is used to hearing “broken promises” when it comes to forest management.

To read the draft pest control plan, click here. The plan area covers Stō:ló, St’át’imc, Nlaka’pamux, Squamish and Tsleil Waututh territories.

Forestry Minister Katrine Conroy did not respond to two requests for comment on the plan.

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