Fruit and nut tree program aims to promote food sovereignty in Wabanaki communities
U.S.-based non-profit plans to distribute fruit trees north of the border
A U.S.-based Indigenous non-profit is trying to help Wabanaki communities have access to sustainable foods by distributing fruit and nut trees.
Nibezun is based in Passadumkeag, Maine, roughly 50 kilometres northeast of Bangor, and is offering up to 300 beach plum, elderberry or American hazelnut trees to interested community members.
The Wabanaki Confederacy consists of the Mi'kmaq, Wolastoqey, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and Abenaki nations.
Kassidy Bernard is L'nu (Mi'kmaw for person of the land) from We'koqma'q First Nation, about 240 kilometres northeast of Halifax, and uses they/them pronouns.
Bernard was thrilled to learn about the food security initiative because they want to implement a food sharing program in their community.
"Having that, to rely on each other and to sustain ourselves for such a basic need, it's such a big reassurance to me," said Bernard.
Bernard is ordering a beach plum tree from Nibezun. The community already has access to an elderberry tree and a hazelnut tree, so Bernard said a plum tree would be a nice addition.
Bernard is learning foraging practices from their sister and one day dreams of living completely off the land.
"[I] love the idea of connecting to our blood memory and ancestral ways of eating, too," said Bernard.
Bernard hopes that by learning how to grow a food tree they can pass along that knowledge someday.
Nibezun is Penobscot for medicine and the organization looks to heal Wabanaki communities through food, ceremony and other programming. The food tree project started in 2020 after a number of trees were donated to the organization.
The food trees this year come from ReTreeUS, another U.S. non-profit that encourages sustainable farming.
Nicole Paul, one of the co-directors at Nibezun who is Passamaquoddy from Sipayik (Pleasant Point), said reclaiming food sovereignty is important because what we eat is connected to language and stories, and bringing those back to Indigenous communities is essential.
Nick Bear, the food tree program co-ordinator at Nibezun, said sustainable farming is about being a good steward to the land.
"It's a gift to look after Mother Earth and replenish her by putting things back into the earth," said Bear, who is Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and Wolastoqey with ties to Indian Island, Maine, and Sipayik (Pleasant Point).
"We're trying to expand our reach and do things like this for our communities and our people as much as possible," said Bear.
He researched how many plants he could ship without a permit into Canada but still has to follow up with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on other regulations.