The Tamitik Status of Women Association (TSWA) is using food to challenge and identify the racial divide in the community.
With the $7,500 grant from the BC Anti-Racism Network, the TSWA is using food to highlight cultural differences as it is a substance consumed by all.
“Food is a pretty universal thing in every culture. Whether it’s physical nourishment, healing, or comfort,” Michelle Martins, TSWA executive director said.
Wanting to highlight the cultural representations of the Haisla Community, the TSWA gave away traditional Haisla fry bread with Rogers syrup. The bread was made by transition house staff, Ruby Duncan and Ladine Craik, for the Food Share program.
“We celebrate with food; the fry bread is very much a celebratory food, it’s a treat or dessert in Haisla culture,” Martins said.
Though staff kept things positive and joyful when distributing the food to those in need, Martins used this window to educate the public by giving a recipe card with a brief history of the Haisla Nation.
Martins believes the ripple effect of colonialism is still prevalent in our community and is using these anti-racism initiatives to engage the community in discussing these issues.
“Kitimat consistently has one of the highest average incomes in the province, because of the industry we have in here, and if you look at the demographics at who begins to enjoy that, it’s predominantly a settler population,” Martins said. “And if we look at who’s impoverished in Kitimat, its predominately Indigenous and Haisla people.”
“Our intention is to start a conversation in a ‘digestible’ sort of way because when we mention colonialism or racism. I think there’s an automatic wall that goes up with people responding saying they’re not racists nor do they contribute to racism. […] When that happens I think the conversation is really touching a nerve inside that person and even amplifying an unconscious bias they didn’t know they held.”
Using these programs, the TSWA hopes these initiatives allow individuals to look beyond their lens and start conversations between friends or family about the possible economic and social stratification between different cultures in our community.
“We want people to have conversations about our divide over something that really unites us, [food],” Martins said.
Through the Food Share program and other initiatives hosted by the TSWA, Martins hopes events like these help cultural engagements between the different demographics in the Kitimat community.
“I think that [conversation] is imperative right now because I believe that any civil or social movement can’t just be advocated by those affected, but it has to be people outside that demographic for change to benefit others.”
The TSWA’s next initiative will emphasize the loss of previous demographics and cultures that have been part of the Kitimat community.
“There used to be quite a predominant Indian, Middle-Eastern, Filipino, and Chinese population in Kitimat […] Those who have lived out the rest of their days here are a typically eurocentric population and the remaining populations have often left and gone down south where their ethnic populations are more robust. I personally think [the remaining residents of populations that have left Kitimat] feel a lesser sense of belonging, so that’s something we’re really trying to bring to light,” Martins said.