Moccasin Footprint Society (MFS) Executive Director Nuskmata (Jacinda Mack) is exuberant when she talks about her organization’s vision, “My dream is for our people to move back to our home villages, to speak our languages, eat our foods, and live our culture for our entire lives. That’s my dream, that’s the work we’re doing.”
MFS was established in 2008 to focus on education as it relates to Indigenous peoples, and as a charity 100% led by Secwepemc and Nuxalk citizens, today, the charity uplifts Indigenous peoples and systems as identified by partner communities. “We’re helping different Indigenous peoples identify what work they want to do, which is repeatedly connected to their values and homelands.” Depending on the day, that might look very different but it’s always connected to systems change that upholds Indigenous ways of being – protecting land and water, strengthening ancient Indigenous governance systems, and continuing to breathe life into land-based languages.
MFS’ work operates outside of colonial restrictions imposed by the Indian Act, such as the reserve system and imposed governance structures. Their programs are multigenerational to ensure knowledge transfer and continued connection to their homelands, medicines, and ceremonies. This includes harvesting trips, knowledge and food sharing, and storytelling.
“We ground our work in long term relationships and sustainability, not only as human beings, but sustainability for how we work in the world,” Nuskmata shared about her approach. “I think those are the key values that we bring to our work. Once we’ve established those relationships we can be honest with each other and do difficult work with respect for each other. That’s what I’m most proud of.”
One of the ways MFS is supporting Indigenous sovereignty is supporting the Nusq’lst Village Rebuild, an ancient village in Nuxalk Territories. What started out as a small cabin has turned into a house and will be the first Nuxalk home in one of their traditional villages since the time of smallpox. The changing climate and long-term self-sufficiency are the guiding goals at Nusq’lst Village, which will include a garden and communal smokehouse. The goal is to rebuild the once prolific village to uplift and showcase Nuxalk culture, language, engineering, community and responsibility.
Another major project that is underway is a Secwepemc Cultural and Education Centre at Quesnel Lake. This centre will focus on bridging youth and elders through sharing language, culture, and land based knowledge systems, while using ‘green technologies’ such as geothermal heating and cooling, solar power, and other sustainable systems.
When asked what’s next for MFS, Nuskmata is unequivocal, “we’re going to continue reclaiming our responsibility to uphold our laws. Our laws don’t change.” Some of that work is infrastructure, like the buildings at Nusq’lst Village, some of that is language revitalization, and all of it is enacting Nuxalk laws over their Territories.