Something New! Four Families…

Some changes have been made on the website (; I thought you should know!

My presentation to be made to Kamloops Food Policy Council on the 1st has to be good – and there is only 3-5 minutes available! To give enough information, a hand-out was the only way to go… and if one creates a hand-out, why not use it on the website!?  [I’ll tell you why not: it takes up too much room!! So I’m going to post it in a new post with a link from the website! Oh, the learning curve is steep!]  It’s a description of how four families, in various communities in Kamloops, could be affected by the first Our Heart Gardens.

Mom and Christa and Jane (tonight’s weekly Dinner with the Ladies) all liked it, were excited by it – said it sounded like utopia and too good to be true. I don’t think it is and it is the adventure of a life-time to make it come true! Part of what I’m planning to say on Wednesday is:

Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved with the same mind-set that created them.”  We have problems to solve and we must work with the resources we have. The new mind-set we need must be created by nurturing and empowering people, and cooperation is key.

The Fourth Way

The Earth and Indigenous Peoples have not been respected by our culture of consumption. What we need soon won’t be available because our practices have interrupted the cycles too badly. Restoration of the Earth will take time and meanwhile, our young people need to learn the right way to do things so they don’t make the same mistakes. Learning from the people whose traditions are in harmony with the Earth is smart. Our Heart Gardens has been designed to not only include, but to honour them.

In the document “The Fourth Way, An Indigenous Contribution to Building Sustainable and Harmonious Prosperity in the Americas and Beyond,, 4worlds@uleth.caby Sun Dance Chief Rueben George, Tsliel-Waututh Nation and Hereditary Chief Phil Lane Jr., Ihanktonwan Dakota and Chickasaw Nations”, it states:

“Millions of Indigenous Peoples have watched helplessly as their traditional means of livelihood were wiped out by unsustainable environmental practices used by large transnational fishing, timber, oil, and mining corporations, by plantation style agricultural operations, and by large government-subsidized agribusiness corporations usurping agricultural markets in their countries. Hundreds of thousands of Indigenous small farmers can no longer earn a basic income because of the intentional destruction of local agricultural markets through predatory global trade practices dictated by the agribusiness industry. These farmers have joined the millions of illegal immigrants flooding into the United States. When viewed through the eyes of Indigenous people, these conditions are not exaggerations; they are the unembellished facts of life.”

There have been three alternatives available to First Nations People: 1) Assimilation 2) Resignation or 3) Resistance, none of which would be good for everyone. The Fourth Way suggests a new way:

“Constructive Development – to create organized Indigenous and related social movements focused on promoting the well-being and prosperity of the people and on electing and supporting leaders who are truly responsive to the majority of the people, leaders who will not only improve education, health care, infrastructure and economic development, but will also work to create social and political “spaces” within the countries where Indigenous people reside, for true participation in an inclusive and equitable project of rebuilding nations.

This approach is not merely political in nature. It also implies a systematic reclamation and recovery of Indigenous cultural foundations, identity and language, and the re-anchoring of social, economic and political change in the spiritual and cultural values and traditional knowledge at the heart of Indigenous cultures. This approach in no way implies a retreat into the historical past, but rather it is an active engagement in the challenge of shaping the future of nations within the framework of life-preserving, life-enhancing, and sustainable values and patterns of action in harmony with all members of the human family.”

Indigenous leaders are guiding their people to right action. It’s time for the rest of us to learn right actions too. As our futures intertwine and grow together, our politics cannot remain an “us and them” struggle. Being an integral part of the land in the past, First Nations have a connection that will not be denied as long as the Land exists. They are a vital part of the future, and they are fundamental to Our Heart Gardens. When we bring the soil indoors to grow and shelter our crops and our families, asking for the help of the people who have loved the land for so long will honour their enduring commitment and give meaning to the past. Their help in creating places where life can be preserved and enhanced while we learn respectful patterns of action will help create a good future for all from the ground up.

No apology will ever be enough.  This, we can do –

Why & How – Councils & Committees

I was reminded this evening that one of the major contributing motivations for Our Heart Gardens is empowering women and helping them remember how to cooperate. Moved into “homes of our own”, many of us don’t even remember how to cook together. Community starts, I believe, around a table sharing a meal, and women have been providing that as long as we’ve been human. Yes, there are exceptions and I love that. If everybody was the same, it’d be no fun! And it’s good to know what’s expected so those of us that enjoy pushing the envelope can do so while the rest of us can relax into traditional roles, comfortably learning and sharing the skills of our Elders and ancestors.


In the desire to create places where we can enjoy a new type of sharing, I’ve stepped into the role of volunteer/committee member. People who understand the vision and can help steer the project through the changes of policy and approvals need to be gathered. With that in mind, I’ve attended meetings of the Kamloops Food Policy Council (KFPC) for their Strategic Plan and Kamloops City Council Advisory Committee on Urban Agriculture for the new Official Community Plan. Oh, my!


A slog through the quagmire of getting things done in the political arena has me shaking the cobweb dust off my shoulders. It’s been a long time since I used those pathways in my brain! I was reminded of how slow things happen. But then, like water off the edge of a cliff, it goes really fast. Wings are being readied to fly – a better alternative…


KFPC is a group of volunteers and representatives of government agencies and other organizations that strive to create a vibrant “food system through information sharing, food action projects and community engagement.” The vision in their Strategic Plan is addressed by Our Heart Gardens in providing a means for citizens to have access to and to produce their own food, process and distribute it in a way that supports and enhances rather than destroys ecological systems, provides resilience to climate change impacts, and food sovereignty by teaching people how to grow food. I’m hoping to speak to them at the next monthly meeting. It’s nice to be able to talk in the meeting – at the Advisory Committee I don’t have a voice.


Gosh it’s hard to keep quiet! But the committee was formed long before I came along and they have a mandate to achieve. I was guided gently by Carole, sitting beside me, into sharing with her so she could advise me (Thank you, Carole!) or put forward comments to the group. I learned a lot by listening and identified issues that I need to be aware of in the creation of Our Heart Gardens – zoning and property taxes are only two. Luckily there are other, more positive aspects like everything identified above for the KFPC, as it was formed to do things that couldn’t be done by the City or other government bodies.


There are other things that the City wants to accomplish that Our Heart Gardens are designed to do that are outside the scope of Urban Agriculture and the Food Policy Council. Social aspects will need to be reviewed, itemized and provided to the City’s Social Planning Council as time permits. Right now, I’m off to bed because tomorrow I’m volunteering at the FarmLand Connections Conference where land and farmers find each other. Should be interesting!

First Step – CommUnity Innovation Lab – Feb 3/15

The CommUnity Innovation Lab at Thompson Rivers University put on during the long process of updating the current Official Community Plan for Kamloops, BC, gathered and provided valuable information and connections. Having had past experience and interest in OCP changes, as well as my nifty new idea, I attended. After a full day exploring how to make the city more physically livable, exhibits stayed open while attendees inquired, nibbled and sipped until time for the main event, a panel assembled to talk about Integrating and Celebrating Western and First Nation’s Values and Successes.

After all the speakers we were invited to ask questions of the panel. The long silence was broken by the First Nations Elder who had given the Blessing. He quoted another Elder from a time long ago, “Those are a lot of pretty words. Now what are you going to do?”

We laughed – only partly because it was funny; sometimes you laugh when you’re uncomfortable, and everyone there was acutely aware of the need to answer the question well!

Another question was addressed to all panel members: how to be successful in speaking with First Nations people – one answer was not to suggest integration! I hear what he says and I think we need to explore a different response. Instead of them integrating Western ways, I want to learn how First Nations lived in the thousands of years before they were colonized. Other nations have been disconnected from the land for hundreds, some for thousands of years. First Nations have good ways that can work for all of us.

In the potluck of today’s thanksgiving celebration, there are things Western people and cities can bring to the table: technology, manpower, buildings and a deep urgent need to find a better way. If we don’t find a better way we will not be homeless – we will be dead. Earth cannot sustain us, status quo.

Long ago, dinner would have been served in the longhouse. First Nations’ villages were centred around the communal building where people worked together while they watched the kids. Everybody had something to do and shared their meals. In that society there was no poverty, nobody ever had to be alone and nobody was ever out of work.

A network of a new kind of longhouse, in re-purposed malls or other large buildings with indoor living walls, can actively respond to the many challenges we face. Internet can connect them virtually and mass transit, as part of the solution, with better ridership, can improve security, frequency and dependability. It could even become a tourist attraction.

I could continue describing the concept but it’s already here:

I talked with a lot of people at the CommUnity Innovation Lab and told some of my stories (my blog: I got a chance to present the idea in 3 minutes or less to the entire group and got a great spontaneous round of applause. I learned a lot and made some great connections – especially with Glenn and Shelaigh of the Kamloops Food Policy Council (KFPC). They gave me the next step on the path, and that will be in the next post. See you soon…

If you see yourself as part of this in any way, I really want to hear from you! Bless you, and all you do.

Shannon McArthur,
Sunshine Sparkling on the Waters