Chippewas of Nawash fishing industry helping food banks

The Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation has a pre-colonial tradition of fishing for trade. Today, we are the only commercial fishers in the waters of our Traditional Territory, which surround the Bruce Peninsula.

We have noted complaints about our boats fishing during pandemic-imposed business closures and wanted the public to be clear why we are on the water. With all eyes on the staggering economy and how the world will reset or find a new post-COVID-19 normal, how our First Nation is doing its best is a matter of public interest.

The Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation (CNUFN) has taken the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic very seriously, putting in place a number of safety measures, including limiting access to the community. Another unique way the First Nation has been responding to the crisis takes advantage of their strong cultural ties to fishing, while helping out food banks at the same time.

Like many industries, the Chippewas of Nawash commercial fishing industry has been devastated by the virus, as most of the fish harvested is normally destined for the many now-closed restaurants and markets. The First Nation is proud to be working with their hardworking fishermen to redirect the flow of fish to food banks inside and outside the First Nation. This has two benefits. First, by providing fish and other foodstuffs within the community, the First Nation has reduced the number of trips community members need to make outside the community, lessening the chance they will be exposed to the virus. Second, fresh fish is a nutritious food, especially important to those facing food insecurity. This is particularly important due to the rise in unemployment as a result of imposed business closures.

The First Nation has provided 200 lbs of fillets to the Wiarton Salvation Army Food Bank, 200 lbs of fillets to the M’Wikwedong Native Cultural Resource Centre, 500 lbs of fillets to the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, 200 lbs of fillets to the Saugeen First Nation Food Bank and 2500 lbs of fillets to the Chippewas of Nawash Good Food Bank.

Captain Mary Millar of the Wiarton Salvation Army expressed the gratitude of food bank patrons on receiving fresh whitefish or salmon. “The fish from Nawash has been very well received,” she reported. “People have been overjoyed to see fresh fish because we don’t typically have things like that. Our clients have felt so happy and blessed when the option was offered. It’s been a real bright light for people who are in a difficult place.”

Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation is based on beautiful Neyaashiinigmiing (Cape Croker) on the Georgian Bay side of the Bruce Peninsula. Chippewas of Nawash is one half of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, whose traditional territory occupies much of southern Ontario, from the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, south to Goderich, from Lake Huron to Collingwood. The Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation people are known for their hospitality, protection of the environment within their Traditional Territory, and vigorous defence of their long tradition of Indigenous commercial fishing.