Ida Matthew displays 80 birch bark and cedar root baskets she had recently completed, on order for a Barriere matron. Matthew recalls an early life orchestrated to the rhythm of seasons of food cultivation, gathering and preservation. (Ann Piper photo)

Ida Matthew displays 80 birch bark and cedar root baskets she had recently completed, on order for a Barriere matron. Matthew recalls an early life orchestrated to the rhythm of seasons of food cultivation, gathering and preservation. (Ann Piper photo)

Elder says food is core of culture

“If you’re ambitious you’ll never go hungry – but you must take only what you need”…Ida Matthew

Food culture is our connection to food; in knowing what it takes to gather and produce food, in celebrating when food is abundant, and in helping one another when food is scarce. This article by editor Ann Piper ran in the June 17, 1991, issue of the Yellowhead Star (now the North Thompson Star/Journal) in regards to an interview with Simpcw First Nation Elder Ida Matthew.

Ida Matthew says every summer her housework “goes to heck”.

“I’d sooner be outside digging around than polishing floors,” she says.

Food – its harvest, preservation and preparation – is the core of any culture, a basic requirement for survival, the Chu Chua Elder points out.

And, she says, the yearly cycle of cultivation, harvest, preparation and preservation provided one of the strongest patterns in her life as a youngster.

“We lived with it, the gathering, the fishing, all those things,” Matthew explains.

Born Ida Eustache, she had older half-brothers and sisters, separated by some years from the nine children of her parents’ marriage. Of those nine, she was second oldest.

The family had a farm at Chinook Cove, on the east side of the North Thompson River.

“Dad did a little bit of everything,” Ida recalls, but had few modern tools to reduce the work load.

Matthew says when she looks back now, she realizes how important the business of providing food was to the family, “beginning when we lived down here – the wheat Dad raised, to be used for flour, and to feed our chickens…

“At the time I used to wonder why all the hardships,” she says.

As one of the older children she was depended upon to help at home, Matthew says. ”The three oldest at home learned the most. I watched Mom grind flour; Dad planted barley and then roasted it for coffee, during the depression, you know.

“The trains were here, but people still travelled by wagon to the picking grounds” to put by berries for winter she recalls.

“Raft River was where we went for fish, and we only took so much out for our food. Because not everybody could go away, we made sure we got some extra.”

“Not everybody did everything, you know,” she points out.

“Some where good hunters, and they went out and got lots of meat of all kinds… which they partially dried up there for easy packing,” she says.

Matthew says both her parents were quick to learn new techniques to simplify life’s tasks where possible. Her mother had already taken up canning before she left for residential school at age 11.

Her father had made friends with neighbours of German extraction, and had learned from them European techniques to preserve pork.

“Neither Mum or Dad went to school,” she states, “They didn’t read or write, but they learned be seeing and listening.

“They were progressive, always learning, “ Matthew says.

Her father cultivated “big fields” of grain and potatoes, while her mother took care of the growing of vegetables, she recalls, and also tanned hides and made such items as gloves, to exchange for things the family was unable to grow or reap from nature themselves.

When the family moved to another location for a time, they also found “a lot of wild rabbits,” the fur of which proved to be another source of revenue.

“If you’re ambitious you’ll never go hungry,” Matthew maintains, “but you must take only what you need.”

And, she says, the old ways have not been lost within her community. “A lot of people have that old way of gathering food,” she states; “but the tools there are now, it’s easier.”

Today, for Ida Matthew and husband Louis, the process of food production and harvest has stopped. On the day she was interviewed, Ida Matthew’s husband was fishing – and she was out digging in her garden until interrupted.

Big gardens are a necessity of life for many people, she says, “because of the joy of giving.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
115 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths in Interior Health

There are now a total of 4,970 cases in the region

Jacob Gardner (Fort St. John, B.C.) marking the highest score of the night of 84.5 on Pozobon Bucking Bulls’ 94 Jason’s Dream. This photo originally appeared in the Jan. 14, 2016, issue of the Times.
10 YEARS AGO: Twenty-seven brave souls take the plunge

40 YEARS AGO: Although mining concerns are not known to be among… Continue reading

(Unsplash photo)
“Are you printing the truth yet?”

Right from my first days in the editor’s chair, I have had a handful of locals tell me they know the secrets to solving COVID-19 — but fail to provide support.

File photo
Man tells RCMP he’s being chased, is later arrested

RCMP looking for witnesses of head-on collision Jan. 10

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons was appointed to the NDP cabinet as minister of social development and poverty reduction after the October 2020 B.C. election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. job training fund increased for developmentally disabled

COVID-19 has affected 1,100 ‘precariously employed’ people

B.C. driver’s licence and identity cards incorporate medical services, but the passport option for land crossings is being phased out. (B.C. government)
B.C. abandons border ID cards built into driver’s licence

$35 option costing ICBC millions as demand dwindles

2nd in-school violence incident in Mission, B.C, ends in arrest

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

BC Emergency Health Services has deployed the Major Incident Response Team (MIRRT) as COVID-19 positive cases rise in the Williams Lake region. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
B.C.’s rapid response paramedics deployed to Williams Lake as COVID-19 cases climb

BC Emergency Health Services has sent a Major Incident Rapid Response Team to the lakecity

(Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
RCMP say ice climber seriously injured after reportedly falling 12 metres near Abraham Lake

Police say man’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

Williams Lake physician Dr. Ivan Scrooby and medical graduate student Vionarica Gusti hold up the COSMIC Bubble Helmet. Both are part of the non-profit organization COSMIC Medical which has come together to develop devices for treating patients with COVID-19. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Group of B.C. doctors, engineers developing ‘bubble helmet’ for COVID-19 patients

The helmet could support several patients at once, says the group

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Most Read