A shipment of pine mushrooms heading out of the Williams Lake airport Monday destined for Asian markets was a high point for the First Nations people who pick them.
The Ulkatcho First Nation band of Anahim Lake is enjoying the benefits of an unexpected bumper crop.
“The price is pretty low but you can put food on your table,” band councillor Gertie Capoose said.
“The majority of our people pick. It’s our livelihood. That’s what we survive on in the fall.”
Mushroom picking is a quick season each year and because it was so dry in 2015, the community thought it was going to be a poor year as it was in 2013 and 2014.
“But then for some reason it just popped like crazy and the mushrooms are coming out where they don’t normally do,” Capoose said.
“I totally believe so badly that our Creator did that.
“I tell people if you pray hard enough God always provides.”
With pine mushrooms going for $10 a pound, there’s an incentive even for children to pick, and people from neighbouring bands have been arriving to pick as well, she added.
The boon also comes at a time when the community is struggling.
“We have had so many deaths this year,” Capoose said, noting the last count was 16 people.
“We just lost my young nephew yesterday in his sleep.”
It has taken its toll but the community pulls together to help each other out, she added.
“Because of all the funerals and the mill shut down and no jobs, it’s kind of a blessing to have such a good mushroom season.”
The mushrooms are sold to buyers for markets in China and Japan.