In the summer of 2020, Amnesty International Canada used a photo without permission as part of a series of Covid and human rights promotion. We removed the image as soon as the mistake was identified, and we have been in conversations with the individual to make redress and promote grassroots community organizations that the individual works with. The apology letter can be read here.
Dashmaawaan Bemaadzinjin (They Feed the People)
Dashmaawaan Bemadzinjin came about as a community-based Indigenous food sovereignty support effort in June of 2020 to provide healthy, whole, fresh, and traditional foods to local Elders and Indigenous folks that are houseless and living in the encampments in Toronto. Dashmaawaan Bemadzinjin honours the right to nourishment for all Indigenous people, focusing not only on food but also on wellness and community connections and recognize that Indigenous food sovereignty is about more than making sure that people are fed, and that they have opportunities to thrive and honour their spirits whenever possible. Gathering around food, ceremony and celebration has always been important to Indigenous peoples, even more so now because of the impact of colonization and years of not being able to practice their traditions.
Through their efforts, Dashmaawaan Bemadzinjin has provided over 1000 meals and connections with Indigenous Elders in Toronto since July of 2020, which have included traditional meats, fishes, grains, vegetables, and medicines. What started as a weekly event of bringing pow wow dancing, drumming and traditional meals to elders at their housing complex has turned into a full-scale weekly meal drop-off program for them. The weekly mini powwows were done from a distance, allowing the elders to eat, listen and enjoy. Dashmaawaan Bemadzinjin did this in response to Elders being isolated and needing creative ways to provide community connections.
The Initiative recognizes food is one of the most important traditions as Indigenous peoples and that maintaining Elders’ access to traditional food is a natural link to the land and their relationship to it. Many of these Elders are not only residential school and child welfare survivors, but also of the Indian Day School and the Indian Hospital Systems and today, because of the lack of access to resources, they are not able to eat whole, healthy foods when they want, and rarely have access to traditional foods, like deer, moose meat, lake fish, and wild rice. These foods bring back memories of home for many.
Dashmaawaan Bemadzinjin has provided 2000 meals to Indigenous people in the encampments and on the streets since June of last year. The memories of home and the connection to community are medicine, and each Sunday, when they prepare a feast for houseless people (rain or shine), Dashmaawaan Bemadzinjin gathers and honours them, their spirits, and their lives. Many of them are elders who have lived houseless for most of their time in urban centres like Toronto.
1. ENAGB Indigenous Youth Agency and Dashmaawaan Bemadzinjin are currently developing a vital partnership to grow connections and opportunities for the Elders in our community. Dashmaawaan Bemadzinjin is excited to partner with ENAGB Indigenous Youth Agency on The Maawnjidime (Let us Gather) Youth and Elder Program, working together to support our elders and youth to mentor and learn from each other. Dashmaawaan Bemaadzinjin believes that our Elders and teachings are at the centre of all they do and that the concept of “feeding our people” is about honouring and nourishing all elements of self. By connecting elders and youth, Dashmawaan Bemadzinjin creates an opportunity for intergenerational knowledge to be passed down and understood and an opportunity for personal connections and growth amongst those who participate.
2. Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction and Dashmaawaan Bemaadzimjin partner weekly to host feasts for Indigenous Houseless people in the city, living in the encampments and on the streets. Dashmawaan Bemadzinjin has been working together since June of 2020 to do this work and provides an additional hot, traditional meal for Indigenous people one day each week.
3. Toronto Fort York Museum and Dashmaawaan Bemaadzinjin are partnering to make commercial kitchen space available to prepare and provide meal bags for our Elders program. The hope is also to expand into developing space at Fort York for an urban Indigenous garden for Indigenous elders and people living on the streets and in encampments.
4. Wiigwamen Terrace Elders Housing Complex Meal Bag Program – Dashmaawaan Bemaadzinjin provides meal bags at Wiigwamen Terrace for up to 80 elders weekly, with nutritious, healthy, whole, traditional ingredients. Each bag takes care of 5 days of dinners, lunches, breakfast, snacks, and leftovers. This is a unique service provided to our elders that fills a gap in their ability to have good food.