Indigenous communities in Canada and the United States are dealing with a food crisis. The injustices they face when trying to purchase food at their local grocery stores are unacceptable. While it may be easy to just blame shipping prices, colonization and how its culture undermines and silences groups is the larger issue at hand. 

What’s Happening? 

To start, the pandemic has made buying affordable food more difficult and expensive. Pre-Covid, it cost $200 to ship or fly in a pallet of food to remote communities in Northern Ontario. Now, that same pallet costs 1,000 dollars to send. A modest 230-kilometer plane journey from Sioux Lookout to northern Mishkeegogamang Ojibway First Nation costs a whopping $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 they would in a city. In some communities, a jug of orange juice is three times as much as it is in Toronto or Edmonton. In Alaska, a turkey costs $99 in areas where Indigenous people live. Global warming has also contributed to this crisis. 

These prices and shipping circumstances haven’t just made buying food difficult, it made buying healthy food impossibly pricey. Three bananas cost $7 in Old Crow Yukon and a small veggie tray goes for $70 in some Canadian territories. 

This further puts those communities at a disadvantage. Why don’t authorities prioritize helping these areas get affordable food? We can’t help but wonder if circumstances would be different if the communities weren’t indigenous. 

Colonization Culture 

Ironically, the people who tended to and loved these lands are now being pushed out of them through Westernized systems designed to oppress them. Simply saying, “Well, that’s just how things are,” ignores the generations of genocide, mistreatment, and westernization of indigenous communities. 

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines colonialism as “control by one power over a dependent area or people.” The impacts of colonialism on land and people include “environmental degradation, the spread of disease, economic instability, ethnic rivalries, and human rights violations.” These issues can linger far after the actual colonial rule ends. 

What Can We Do To Help? 

There are several ways to support the rights of indigenous people. 

1. Focus on giving these communities control of their land and include them in discussions about how to use it.

2. Build public awareness, especially around how important indigenous peoples’ role is in conservation. Indigenous people’s respect for their land comes from their dependence on it.

3. Encourage the state to fulfill wider rights, particularly the right to development, which includes “the fulfillment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and freedoms.”

4. Do not speak for communities you are not a part of. Part of being an ally is listening and giving them a voice. By automatically assuming you know their circumstances and what’s best for them, you take a valuable platform away from them. 

The food prices in remote indigenous communities are shocking, but they aren’t new. Hopefully, spreading information about how living in remote communities is punished by American and Canadian systems will open our eyes to the modern systematic oppression of indigenous people. 

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