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The Importance Of Gardens On Indian Reserves

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SEPTEMBER 1979      v09 n09 p14  
Recent reports on Indian health are disturbing. Better facilities alone do not improve those problems but are nevertheless very important. Housing, plumbing, health care leave a lot to be desired, but one thing never has been mentioned and this disturbs me. Proper nutrition must be also considered and this, is a great factor of our society. Due to the nature of my work, I am quite often invited to share a meal with my friends on the reserves. Having received a relative good training in nutrition, I can not avoid noting the atroxious imbalance of nutriment specifically of the vegetable kind in their diet.

The Importance of Gardens on Indian Reserves

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SEPTEMBER 1979      v09 n09 p15  

Here in the Yorkton district we recently held a seminar on nutrition, and to my surprise many a people did not know how to handle a basic variety of vegetable Indian people can grow in their gardens. I blame this on the factor that nobody ever told them about this and efforts put forwards by SIAP to promote individual gardening show moderate well results.

The high prices in supermarkets surrounding the Reserves make it virtually impossible to buy a greater variety of vegetables as most of the people could not be considered wealthy.

Another factor is that many a food offered in the grocery shelves are unknown to my friends and thus, even so important for a proper diet never tried.

Some of these problems can be overcome by planting family gardens and more emphasis must be placed upon variety rather than on how. A healthy body is more resistant to infections and diseases. A garden is also the best inflation fighter if properly used. I would urge band councils and health nurses, F.S.I. and all agencies involved to stress this factor. We need more nutritionists and health nurses to teach proper ways to preserve and cook food, agricultural and horticultural people to stress and teach people gardening techniques. That we have interest and need shows clearly as my position was created by demand, and we have, even though this year was a very discouraging one, because of drought, early frost and a lack of water facilities, very good results and an even greater interest developed.

This is reflected by the fact that after an initial shyness by the people, and after they got used to me, they now complain that I am not often enough on their reserves, (a different approach shall remedy this during the next year).

It must be stressed that the people, once introduced to a greater variety of vegetables respond well and proudly display their products, frozen, canned and their meals taste better, according to those which have tried.

The most common complaint is that there are not enough facilities to break gardens in the fall and spring, and a solution must be found to remedy such.

Traditionally gardening is in the woman's domain, and I urge them either to approach the bands or other agencies to help them on a much better basis. Rototillers must not be in every garden, but could be borrowed around, and a proper service program could mean an income source for yet another person on each band. This person if trained well can be employed almost 8 out of 12 months, in each reserve to repair rototillers, lawn mowers, etc.

The gardens must be tailored to the needs of each family, according to size and food habits. Approximately 40% of it should be in potatoes, 40% in fresh and retrievable vegetables and 20% in fruit and berries. Old habits of growing, such as too wide rows must be abandoned and a more modern way should be applied. New varieties should be introduced such as peppers, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, parsnips, etc. as well as well-coordinated program on how to use them.

It is of the utmost importance to teach that not all chemical fertilizers are bad as well that some chemical pest-fungus-and insect controls are beneficial, and proper use must be taught.

Individual bands in their own interest should promote such approach as it not only raises the health level of its members, it also is an added factor to the beautification of their surrounding.

We need more federal and provincial help to build and maintain wells as many houses lack even this important facility. We need help in creation of storage for root fruits like potatoes, beets, turnips, and places to store deep freezes and canned foods. In other words better housing with proper basements. All these factors work well together.

A garden also provides recreation time and fun as it is not only hard work, it takes only about 4-6 hours a week to maintain a basic garden and the pride in a nice plot so displayed very often to me when people call me to show me their achievements.

Seen as an overall picture, exposure to fresh air, the satisfaction of growing things, the savings in grocery bills, and the improvement of health add up to "Grow a Garden".

As the Indian people rely more and more on domesticated facilities, a garden is their bind with nature, adds to their pride of achievement and saves valuable dollars in shopping and health care.