All about food prices and the culture of colonization in remote Indigenous communities
Indigenous communities in Canada and the United States are facing a food crisis. The injustices they face when trying to buy food from their local grocery stores are unacceptable. While it’s easy to blame shipping prices alone, colonization and the way its culture undermines and silences groups is the bigger problem.
What is happening?
For starters, the pandemic has made buying affordable food more difficult and more expensive. Before Covid, it cost $200 ship or airlift a pallet of food to remote communities in Northern Ontario. Now that same palette costs $1,000 to send. A modest 230-kilometre plane trip from Sioux Lookout to northern Mishkeegogamang Ojibway First Nation is very expensive $3000. Very few communities have all-weather road access.
So how does this affect food prices? Well, most products cost 1.5 times more in remote communities than in a city. In some communities, a pitcher of orange juice costs three times more than in Toronto or Edmonton. In Alaska, a turkey costs $99 in areas where native people live. Global warming has also contributed to this crisis.
These prices and shipping conditions have not only made food shopping difficult, they have made food shopping safe. incredibly expensive. Three bananas are $7 in Old Crow Yukon and a small platter of vegetables is $70 in some Canadian territories.
This further disadvantages these communities. Why aren’t the authorities prioritizing helping these areas get affordable food? One cannot help but wonder if the circumstances would be different if the communities were not indigenous.
Culture of colonization
Ironically, the people who cared for and loved these lands are now driven out by westernized systems designed to oppress them. Simply saying, “Well, that’s the way it is,” ignores generations of genocide, mistreatment and westernization of Indigenous communities.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines colonialism as “the control by a power over a dependent region or people”. The impacts of colonialism on lands and people include “environmental degradation, the spread of disease, economic instability, ethnic rivalries and human rights violations.“These problems can persist long after the end of colonial rule.
What can we do to help?
There are many ways to support the rights of indigenous peoples.
1. Focus on giving these communities control over their land and include them in discussions about how to use it.
2. Raise public awareness, particularly of the importance of the role of indigenous peoples in conservation. Indigenous peoples’ respect for their land comes from their dependence on it.
3. Encourage the state to realize broader rights, in particular the right to development, which includes “the realization of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and freedoms”.
4. Don’t speak on behalf of communities you don’t belong to. Part of being an ally is listening to them and giving them a voice. By automatically assuming that you know their situation and what is best for them, you take away a valuable platform.
Food prices in remote indigenous communities are shocking, but they are nothing new. Hopefully spreading information about how living in remote communities is punished by the American and Canadian systems will open our eyes to the modern systematic oppression of Indigenous peoples.
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