Food is Medicine: Calling my spirit back to the land



​Freda Campbell ushyeh/ushyē, Estsū Dekhāmā uyeh/uyē, Ts’eskiye esdāts’ēhi, Tātl’ah nasdeh. My name is Freda Campbell, my grandmother is Dekhāmā, I am crow clan and live in Dease Lake. I am sharing my story about my food is medicine journey, fishing and calling my spirit back to the land.

​My fishing journey began when I was 22 years old in the small community of Telegraph Creek, loca​ted in northern British Columbia along the Stikine River. I had gone there to work with my auntie Lil as a summer student flagging on the highway.

I had only been to Telegraph Creek twice before and did not feel connected to my Tahltan community, culture or ways of being. I did not know what family I belonged to, o​​r who my family members were; there was a piece of my identity missing and I was on a journey to find it. This all started by listening and watching my auntie Lil and other knowledge keepers, fishers and Elders in the community.

That summer, I followed my auntie Lil everywhere and acted as she did. Anybody auntie Lil called aunty or uncle, I did the same. My aunt was my teacher and together we spent time in Telegraph when the sockeye were running. Due to colonization an​​d the loss of my grandmother's status and the rights to her land when she married my grandfather, our family did not have our own fishing spot. This meant we had to borrow other community members' fishing spots and booms in order to have access to traditional foods.

I remember auntie Lil sharing stories about my grandma not being able to fish with the community because of this. She and her children would go out and fish when everyone was d​one harvesting. This is why it was so important for me to go and claim our rightful place on our land and in community.

My first summer fishing was trial and error; I was still learning how to fish, from setting up the equipment to catching them. One day my uncle Clements was walking to his fishi​​ng spot and noticed how I was setting up my fishing equipment and noticed it was not quite right. He went into town and shared this with my uncle Gilbert, who I'm sure must have joked back, “you better go help you​r niece, she is going to starve."

With the support of my uncles, a boom was built. I was taught how to set up all my fishing equipment prop​​erly, as well as where to place it, and that is still the same fishing spot where my family and I fish today.  

Today, I still love fishing, it is a blood memory to me. I went from setting up a small tent, with a pot over​​ the fire and “roughing it," to a cabin that was built by my father and me. I never dreamed of the set-up I have now and I honour this incredible journey.

That was the strongest medicine I had: to be able to come home and work with other Tahltans, learn from my Elders; learn who I was; about my territory; my neighbours; and my traditional foods and ways of being. I acknowledge that community has been in my corner supporting me on this journey the whole time. I had no what I was doing, but what I learned was the willingness of people to help me. When I thought people would laugh at me, it was the opposite. People were more than willing to show me and help me. When I showed up, there were people who showed up for me and were there to help, nurture and support me. ​​​​

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