Elderberry Farmers in Solidarity with Secwepemc

For RAVEN’s “In Conversation” series via Instagram, we spoke with Louise Lecouffe from Elderberry Grove about her inspiring efforts to fundraise for RAVEN’s campaign supporting Secwepmenc Nation. 

For the last 12,000 years, the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation has managed the land and resources of their unceded territory in interior B.C. Their traditional knowledge and stewardship has nurtured  countless generations. 

The Nation is going to court to secure Aboriginal title to their territory in interior B.C. A title win would support the application of their established knowledge into the future management and development of the land and resources for Secwepemc and settlers alike. The Secwepemc determination to pursue title to their lands in court is grounded in Secwepemc Indigenous law and the concept of yecweminem — the obligation to care protect land, water and sky worlds within Secwepemc territory. 

Numerous supporters and businesses have stepped up in support of Secwepemc in their pursuit of sovereignty and stewardship of their lands. Elderberry Grove is an elderberry farm in Secwepemculecwm, also known as Salmon Arm, BC. Fresh-squeezed by the farmers themselves, they make nourishing berry-full syrup, shrub & juices. When Louise and her partner heard about RAVEN’s campaign, they stepped up to support by donating 100% of their proceeds from elderberry flower sales to support Secwepemc’s legal challenge. 

Elderberry Grove’s creativity, sense of responsibility and ethical business practice sets a powerful example of the ways in which everyone can play a role in the movement for Indigenous rights.

What inspired you to get involved in supporting the Secwepemc legal challenge with your business?

My partner and I live in Secwepemc territory. We grow elderberries, and we also press the berries and do all kinds of things like have juice, elderflower tea and offer the cuttings so people can grow at home which is close to our heart.  So the more people can grow it themselves, it’s better for food security and their health. 

I started looking closer social justice movements this summer with the murder of George Floyd.  I wanted to be engaged in a more meaningful way. I found the education piece of RAVEN was soothing and grounding on my nervous system. Hearing about the history in Canada and the movement with Indigenous people, showing a clear path forward and how we can create change through legal challenges was inspiring. 

With the Secwepemc campaign I was thinking, “what is my capacity as a person and a business?” It’s really the question of what can we do with the body and time that we are in. I looked at where I live. I live on this beautiful, stolen Secwepemc land. So, how can I connect to this place and help the community have their land back and steward it? Otherwise we would just be extracting from it. I see the campaigns through RAVEN are specifically for Indigenous sovereignty; so for them to have the right and title to their lands to take care of it for future generations is critical.

What did your business do to support the Secwepemc?

We thought, ok, so to go to court for the legal challenge is going to take money. We could send money, but we also wanted to engage more people to find out in their communities what is going on for Indigenous sovereignty. We are donating all our harvested and dried flowers from this summer for elderflower tea, 100% of our sales will go to this campaign. It’s been really amazing. 

What advice would you give to other businesses looking to step up in solidarity for Indigenous rights?

Figure out what stolen land you are on and think about what you love. For us we love clean drinking water.  So, for Secwepemc to say no to the Trans Mountain pipeline which will likely have a spill along the way, I am going to support them in stopping that in any way I can through my business. This land has been well cared for and that care makes it possible for us to grow these berries. 

For Secwepemc to have leadership and sovereignty is caring for the land and caring for clean water. Whatever platform you have, or even conversations with family, just starting with speaking up is important. 

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