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A mouthwatering tale of Northern treats

Columnist Walt Humphries stumbled across the remains of a moose that had been butchered recently, leaving behind plenty of bones and scraps of meat. It got him wondering if a better distribution system for country food could be a good thing for the whole territory. photo courtesy of Walt Humphries

by Walt Humphries

When I was writing about lingon or low bush cranberries, it occurred to me that since Amazon and Ikea are selling them, why isn’t there a market for northern berries at least here in the North?

For several years Yellowknife went through a drought and berries were extremely hard to come by locally. I would have gladly bought a bag from one of the communities, had they been available. Also, not everyone can pick their own berries and they could be used by the hospital, seniors, and elders. I really like the berries, they are a Northern food and apparently quite good for you, so should be a staple for people living in the North.

Imagine if there was a country food board or director, who sat down and figured out how many berries the NWT could use in a year. Then they put out the word that they would buy them. Lets just pick a few number for now and say the NWT could use three thousand bags of berries at $30 a bag. Anyone anywhere in the NWT who wanted to could pick them, clean them and sell them to the GNWT. This would provide work and income for people in several communities.

The berries could be handled through an existing department and redistributed to where they are needed. A number would go to the hospital, to the senior’s homes, to elders who can’t pick their own and then the others could be sold in communities where there is demand. That would tend to be in the bigger communities where a lot of people don’t have easy access to good picking spots or the time to pick their own.

To me it would provide work, income, and berries to people across the North and that would be a good thing. The system could be expanded to include a whole lot more then just berries. The other day on the side of the Vee Lake Road I came across the remains of a moose that someone had butchered. There were the bones, still a lot of meat on the legs and some of the organs, including the heart.

I thought to myself, in a lot of the communities that stuff would have been used and turned into moose soup. Imagine the delight of a lot of the people in Stanton Territorial Hospital if moose or caribou soup was the special for a day or two.

In a bigger centre like Yellowknife a lot of the people who go hunting just want the major meat cuts and can’t be bothered with that sort of thing. But maybe that stuff should be turned over to people who know what to do with it and can turn it into a good healthy food, like Northern soups or stews.

If there was some sort of country food director or board maybe they could figure out ways to better utilize and redistribute the resources we have. In the smaller communities, because the people live closer to the land and all know each other, they

swap, trade and redistribute these things. It is the traditional way. So why isn’t it set up so this traditional way is also used in the bigger communities or the whole NWT?

If one part of the Territory has a shortage of country foods, due to drought, forest fires or even a severe winter kill, then why not send them some country food from areas which have a surplus? If a moose hunter doesn’t want the bones, less desirable cuts or even the hide, why isn’t it given to a person or community that does?

It would be a Northern solution to a Northern problem and a Northerner who knows the way of these things should be put in charge to help ensure it happens. That is in part what we have the government for. To come up with solutions that work for the entire territory.

Personally, I think the GNWT should look into this because it makes sense, it avoids waste and would give people better access to healthy Northern foods.