Délı̨nę is considering creating a year-round country food processing facility to help address food insecurity in the community and teach youth life skills.
Country food describes food from wild animals and plants. Délı̨nę’s proposal focuses on caribou, fish, wild meats, and berries. The facility would have space for fur handling, tanning, and arts and crafts.
“Délı̨nę and its residents need access to a reliable supply of country foods,” the Délı̨nę Got’ı̨nę Government wrote in documents supporting its proposal. “It is often difficult for community members to get access to country food, let alone find a space to process it.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has made it harder for people to go on the land to get country food, the government added.
At a public consultation held by video conference on Friday, community leader Ekw’atide Leeroy Andre said: “I think it’s what we want, for Délı̨nę to train its own people … I want this to be a one-stop shop for our way of life.”
The pilot project would produce food solely for the community, not for commercial sale. The priority isn’t to make money at first, though an online arts and crafts store is envisaged. The facility should help to retain the nutrition of country food and increase its shelf life, proponents argue.
Fort Providence is working on a similar project to establish a fish plant.
Funding for Délı̨nę’s project has yet to be secured, though conversations with potential partners have begun. Andre said a meeting with the federal government was positive and could lead to part-funding for the project. The territorial government will also be approached.
Work is under way to assess the equipment and location needed for the facility and develop a budget. No timeline for building the plant has been established. The government is examining the prospect of powering the building in a way that does not rely on diesel or Délı̨nę’s power plant.
Andre said the facility would allow people skilled in different trades to teach youth and reinvigorate traditional ways of life.
Just one trapper went out last year, he said, expressing the hope that money currently used for community administration could be diverted toward preserving culture, language, and ways of life.
“We could bring in the young men and boys, you can show them how to skin a wolf – actually train them and teach them,” he said on Friday.
“We can bring in the girls and show them how to fix the hide … right now, there’s nothing like this in the community.
“This could be our cultural training centre.”