Reviving Traditional Food Practises

Reviving Traditional Food Practises
Reviving Traditional Food Practises

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 8 of Indigenous Food Challenge

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Challenge Is On!


Well, it’s been one week. It’s funny because all of the psychological build up seems to have over-inflated any concerns or worries that I had heading in to this challenge. On a personal level the first week came and went very easily. We had our share of challenges. School lunches and making a speedy meal after a long and hectic day proved to be among the biggest challenges this week.

Also, this week I traveled out of town twice – I spent one evening facilitating a community discussion on Forestry Monitoring in Clayoquot Sound in Tofino and I went to Vancouver for two nights and two days for work with the First Nations Health Council. Prior to the Indigenous Food Challenge I thought that the out of town business trips were going to be the hardest parts. In fact the trips were a breeze. In the case of the Tofino trip I neglected to eat before I left and also forgot to pack some food for the trip but with the help of a lot of water the time flew by and I made it home to have some left over salmon. The next day I prepared for my trip to Vancouver and packed an abundance of food (a can of smoked salmon, a can of moose stew, smoked moose meat, apples, salsa and organic tortilla chips). The first evening went by with ease.

The following morning I had smoked salmon for breakfast and made my way to the meeting. I allowed my self to drink peppermint tea (my one weakness) and at lunch that day I went to my room and grabbed some of my food. I brought some smoked moose meat down and shared it with some of my coworkers. The smell of the meat attracted a lot of attention and it was great to be able to engage in some interesting conversation about indigenous foods and the current status of First Nations health. One of the women sitting at my table was from Salteau First Nation. When she discovered that the moose came from her territory it immediately brought delight. It was a treat for her because she has been living in the Vancouver area and has not had access to traditional foods for quite some time.

That evening I found a market that sold fresh local seafood. I dined on crab, prawns, salmon pepperoni and a salad made from local greens and vegetables. The rest of my stay in Vancouver went by quickly. All in all the out of town trips were a piece of cake… or maybe dried fruit.

After returning home for the remainder of the week I became innovative with our menu. I made a buffalo and wild turkey meatloaf. It was a big hit with the kids. I also made a wild meat chilli with kidney beans that I soaked overnight and I also made wholegrain flour, blueberry pancakes for the kids and I experimented with corn flour and corn meal to make tortilla shells. Meals have become increasingly easier to prepare and Nitanis and I have started preparing larger meals and canning them for quick and convenient use later. We have also introduced some additional non-indigenous food items into our diet. In hindsight we did not prepare nearly enough fruit and vegetables. To supplement this we have introduced fruit and vegetables from a local farm market. Not all of the fruit and vegetables come directly from this area but they do all come from BC.

Throughout the earlier part of this week I noticed that I was feeling a little more tired than usual. This, I’m sure, is a result of the change of diet. Most likely my body is still undergoing a detoxification from all of the sugary and starchy foods and Creator know what other ingredients. By the end of week one I have been feeling much more energetic. I feel a little guilty for not engaging in as much physical activity as I ought to but I did still manage to lose five pounds through the first week. However, the snowfall at the end of this week has given me a good work out. Weight loss is an added bonus through this challenge that I’m sure will continue but the real reward has been in the overall great feeling that I have experienced over the past few days. It is great to feel a sense of confidence and comfort with the foods that our family is eating. I can feel this change already taking affect throughout my body and in my mind and spirit.

My goal for this week is to begin engaging in more physical activity.


First of all I would like to say that I have never stuck to a diet in my life. In the last 10 years I have managed to gain over 60 lbs and had 5+ kids during that time. For the first time in my life I have struggled with being fat. This has changed the way that I hold and see myself even the style of clothes that I wore was different. I was never too hard on myself due to the fact I was either lactating or pregnant over these last few years. But there were moments I would catch myself in the reflection of a window or mirror and think, “Who is that person?” My life was so busy with work and kids that to try and do a diet change or workout just wasn’t something that I could easily do. I needed help and with this challenge I am so inspired and feel in my soul that it is important. Usually when it involves my kids I will do the right thing to be healthy. An example would be quitting smoking. This I could not do on my own but when I was pregnant I did it for my baby and since I was pregnant every 2 years I completely quit after the 3rd baby. I was stupid and lit up after I walked out of the emergency hospital in Vancouver and continued to smoke till I got pregnant again.

But I still needed the support of my partner and it was only till he completely quit that I finally did and we haven’t smoked since. The weight and our lifestyle were too convenient and it was starting to show with our kids gaining weight and acting hyperactive. The death of my dad has made us work even harder to create discussion around the dinner table to talk about what is good and what isn’t. The kids have been great this first week though there has been a couple of moans and groans here and there. Overall, it has been a great success! I too have lost 3 lbs from when I stepped on the scale at 2 months pregnant and I am now 7 months pregnant with my 7th child so I have probably gained 10 lbs of baby weight. So this means after this baby is born I will be smaller then when I started!

The trickiest part is trying to pack seven kids lunches and trying to figure out something new everyday. This has proven to be a real challenge, but we are managing. Tonight’s dinner I made goose for the first time, it was amazing! And right now I have chili in the pressure cooker for those days we are too busy or just plain tired. Nighttime is when I have my sweet cravings. Before, when the kids were in bed, I would take out my chocolate from my hiding spot and have my fix… so for those nights I now eat frozen blueberries and it does the trick.

I did go through a drive-thru this week (guilty). I had to get up early and pick up my sister out of town and hadn’t had time to prepare anything… well my coffee most importantly. This is one thing I could not give up so I went to the drive through and ordered myself a soy latté. It was so good yet I will make an effort to make this a once-in-a-while treat. When I saw my sister she had a plate of deep fried oysters, fish and chips and a nice cup of coffee with cream and sugar to reward me for making the trip. I thanked her and declined her offer though I was wondering if I should just peel the coating off and eat the oyster anyway. I felt bad for my trip to the drive-thru so that was my splurge for the week.

I want to continue to take away bad habits we let our family fall into and put more positive activities in place instead. My next goal is to eliminate T.V. and video and computer games or at least limit the time that it is taking up with the kids.

My goal for this week is too try to mix up our meals and try new recipes and add some physical activity.

Kalilah (10 yrs old):

Week one has been very tough for the big change of foods. I enjoy eating a lot of the indigenous foods that we have. I miss eating burgers and the smell of fast food. I like the dried fruit, salmon and non-wheat bread that I have in my lunches. Now I’ve realized the change is helping. When I ate the old food that we used to have I didn’t feel good. My stomache would act up but it feels a lot better now. It’s better to eat the indigenous foods of our ancestors.

This week my brothers and I went to grandma and papas house. We ate spaghetti, chicken with hot sauce, bread and juice. I felt a little guilty. After, my mom and dad talked to them about our indigenous foods challenge. We noticed how they’re really trying hard to help us in our indigenous food diet when we visit them. The next night when I slept over I could tell that they were really trying because we had fruit, a tiny bit of ice cream and natural juice instead of chips, pop, lots of ice cream and who knows what else. We also went to my cousin Coda’s birthday. We had turkey dinner and birthday cake for dessert. After that I started to feel sick. I didn’t feel good. My belly felt really bad. I could tell that I was more used to the indigenous foods. Whenever I ate other foods it made me feel a little sick.

My goal for this week is to not go out of my way to visit other people to eat other foods.

Qwyatseek (8 yrs old):

My favourite indigenous foods have been goose, moose and fish. I’m not really used to all of the food that we have been eating but it’s getting easier. I really liked going to Grandma and Papas and having some treats. I know that the food we are eating now is important because we are first nation.
My goal is to try to enjoy the indigenous foods we are eating more. That’s it… good bye… thanks for listening.

Nikosis (6 yrs old):

My favourite indigenous foods have been fish and apples. I like the healthy pancakes that dad made for us. It was really yummy with the apple sauce. The only food that I miss is pineapples. I had one pop when I went to grandma and papas house but it was too sweet and sour. I just like water now. I liked the birthday cake at Coda’s birthday.

Tseeqwatin (4 yrs old):

The digenous foods I like are fish and rice… uh pizza pops… but pizza pops aren’t digenous food. I liked the pancakes. I have been crying to eat pizza, drink juice and I really, really want bacon. Moose meat is yummy. That’s it.

Tseeqwatin out of all of the kids has had the hardest time adjusting. In the past he loved bacon, pizza and fast food. I don’t think that one day went by where he didn’t ask about one or more of these foods. Even though he craves these foods he is always mindful that the ‘digenous food is good for us.’ Some foods go over a lot easier than others for Tseeqwatin. He enjoys salmon and wlld rice with balsamic vinegar and a little soy sauce. He misses drinking juice but has been managing with water and cold tea. Out of all of the kids he enjoyed the visit with his grandparents the most. He will continue to have some challenges as we go along but each day gets a little easier. Everyday he will ask for a different that is not in our diet such as hotdogs and pizza pops.

Chyyah (2 yrs old):

Chyyah is the youngest and pretty much goes with the flow. She had a visit to the dentist this week to assess some teeth that have severe tooth decay. Unfortunately, we did not get to it soon enough so she will require some further dental work. She is now completely off milk in her bottle and drinking huice. She drinks water and tea and uses honey sparingly. She enjoys eating fruit so she has made sure that our refrigerator and cupboards are stocked full of fruit. We have made an exception for Chyyah and have allowed organic bananas and grapes into her diet. Like the rest of the kids she really likes salmon and wild rice. She has also enjoyed the non-wheat bread that gets toasted for her.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Indigenous Foods Challenge

What is an Indigenous foods challenge?
It is to harvest, preserve, hunt, gather, and trade food to last a full winter. September 2009 at a B.C. Foods Systems Network conference in Chehalis, in between the workshops a couple of ladies and I got to talking. Raven Ann Potchka and Dawn Marsden. What if we were to eat what our ancestors did and do it all ourselves... could we do it? We decided to take the winter of 2009 to research what is actually Indigenous and what has been introduced. To spend the spring and summer gathering and to make it a challenge to encourage others to join in and create a food sharing network as well.
This has been a challenge indeed!

Dairy This has proven very hard for the kids so we have allowed organic almond milk without sugar
ssugar maple syrup and local honey are allowable substitutes
white flour though we are using local milled oats and whole grain local milled bread and papa John made us pumpernickel with molasses
processed foods or meats
shopping in the larger Foods stores and chains
fast food
pop or juice

beef, pork, and chicken

local honey
local fruits and vegetables though the first day was hard my daughter loves bananas and grapes so we make sure its organic and at the local health food store
eggs this one we are still up in the air about
beans we were unable to get a hold of some real indigenous beans form down south so we use local organic
Herbs and spices try to be local and organic
organic Lemons
organic local garlic and ginger
some farmers market items such as vinegar, mustard and homemade preserves without sugar

Restaurants must only eat organic local fruits or veggies and seafood if we have to eat out
* once a month we will treat ourselves to one introduced food for the day

The Kids

Almond milk
birthday cake at a birthday party
organic corn chips
sherbet at coombs country market
Special days at school

We can trade throughout North and South America... its all Indigenous land. Foods that were here prior to contact. Such as corn and beans from the south, wild rice form the east, caribou way up north,eulichan grease, seaweed and herring eggs from the north west coast. We will use the trading system as much as possible. However, some people prefer money and this can be allowed.

So during the summer of 2010 we have harvested, hunted, traded and preserved the following foods:

Moose - roasts, dried (big chief smoker we got secondhand), canned moose stew 1 1/2 cases
My cousin Travis shot a moose and we drove 1150km to Fort St. John, we traded for 3 cases of sockeye salmon, halibut, and dried candied salmon. 2 Moose hearts traded by my cousin Sai from the Northwest Territories for 1 case of salmon

Deer - roasts, ribs, 6 jars of stew with homemade tomato sauce
This deer my husband shot. This was the first time my children seen an animal die, they prayed and thanked the deer for its life and put the stomach wrapped in sword ferns and let the tide take it out

Rock cod - frozen
John and the kids went to Seitcher Bay on the west coast and caught the fish

Clams and Crabs -frozen
Kids and John got this but we ate most of this during the summer months

rabbit - local farmers market

Salmon - 35 frozen given to me by Jane Jones from local Tseshaht First Nations, and by cousin Tyrone Marshall caught down the river beside our house, 1 case jarred fish head soup from said fish, 25 1/2 smoked and 13 cases of canned sockeye salmon, My sister Skeena and I went to the mainland and stayed with our beloved friends June and Fred Quipp from the Cheam First Nations who donated the fish and home to stay in while we spent a few days under her awesome canning shelter. She taught me how to smoke and hang my first smoked salmon. This was our main trade item so we are down a few cases I think we still have 8 cases and canned 10 of the 1/2 smoked salmon so we are down to 15 and up 2 cases of canned smoked, 1 bag of full smoked and 10 dried and candied salmon bought from local Tseshaht Ray Watts

Seaweed bought a few bags from a friend Barb White in Comox. I wish I had more.

Eulichan grease my cousin Sacheen told be of a guy named Jacob on facebook who was selling and he sent me 5 500mls cans of the good stuff

Sea asparagus - 1 1/2 cases of pickled picked by John on the west coast

Bull kelp - 2 cases of pickled also picked by John on the open water of the westcoast

Berries - frozen local blueberries we picked at a u-pick with the kids, frozen and jarred blackberries we picked with the kids, wild cranberries a gift from my friend Snookie from northwest territories traded for canned salmon

Fruit - a huge bag of dried, 1 case jarred and made into leather local apples bought at the farmers market, peaches 1/2 case done with honey as a sweetener and my friend Mahalia Young gave me a case, cherries Mahalia gave me a case, frozen grapes and pureed frozen for juice picked in our parents backyard, couple of jarred pears from last year we got at our old house

Mushrooms - dried chantrelle John and kids picked

Other - 1 case canned stewed tomatoes, 4 cases of salsa all local organic from the farmers market,
wild rice we got at the local health food store, oats and grain bread which we will buy every week at the farmers market, squash and lots of fresh veggies from the farmers market. I did not have time this summer to start my garden. I am a novice gardener but very keen to try. Whole grain flour locally milled only if we really need it, vinegar local guy makes it as well as cleaning products

Coffee - farmers market fair trade coffee I know this one I could not give up would've have liked to trade with Indigenous farmers instead

Chestnuts - four bags of frozen chestnuts from our yard in our old house

Now hopefully this will last us the winter but we will continue to go to the west coast to harvest shellfish like oysters, clams, and crab throughout the winter season, and we will go to the farmers market every week if we need to get things like potatoes and onions.
We have weighed ourselves (not telling yet) and are going to get a full physical to monitor our health during this time. I am also 7 months pregnant so I don't intend on losing any weight, if I stay the same that would be ideal. My 10 year old daughter is also writing a journal of her indigenous food challenge and her feeling about having dried moose meat and berries for lunch at school. The kids are getting a big kick out of the challenge and we talk about our food at the dinner table. My four year old says "is this indigenous mom" then at the health food store he says "can I have a ndignous sucker?"
I have only done it for 2 days now and I feel so good knowing exactly where all my food was made and how it was prepared. Lots of love went into the preparing of our food and you feel it when you eat it.
We are a big family of we have 5 kids as well my sister is staying here with her 2 boys and my 19 year old nephew. So all together we have 4 adults and 7 kids in our household. Today for dinner we had a huge baked moose bone with salad and crispy seaweed and to wash it all down with ice tea.
Some of the challenges so far is my freezer was unplugged for a day a thawed out the top part of the freezer so I had to quickly can up the meat. The berries I have to make a sauce now that its all mushy.

Until my next entry
eat good and live well
"Our food is our medicine"
Nitanis, John and Family

Monday, September 20, 2010

Indigenous Food Challenge

Sunday, November 14, 2010

“World Diabetes Day”

Today is the first day of the Indigenous Food Challenge. We have decided to commence our challenge on this date to commemorate the loss of a wonderful person that was taken early from our lives through diabetes. Victor Reece was a master carver and storyteller from the Tsimpshian Nation. More than this Victor was a loving father and grandfather.

We are all too aware of the alarming rates of diabetes among First Nations Peoples. A colonial lifestyle has brought with it a colonial diet for our people. Our once active practices of harvesting and preserving indigenous foods have given way to a sedentary, over-indulgence of unhealthy foods. Many of the foods that have become ‘traditional’ to our people (bannock, fry bread, homemade white bread, etc) are main staples within the common indigenous household. It is this normalization of introduced foods that has weakened our immunity and made us more susceptible to diseases and obesity.

Traditionally, our people maintained a spiritual connection with the land and the food systems therein. Our harvesting practices were gentle upon the earth and in return we received plentiful amounts of nutritious and nourishing foods. The ability to feast or to share food in great quantities took much effort and our families cherished this opportunity. The sharing of food has always been an important part of our culture. In many First Nations communities this cultural value has not changed… but the food has.

Go to a feast today and you will quickly realize this change of diet. Turkey, Roast Beef, Spaghetti, bread, potatoes, and a wide assortment of sugary desserts have replaced the hand-picked local foods. Similarly, the average First Nations family’s cupboards are now filled with canned, processed foods, and products high in starch, sugar and salt rather than fresh and preserved foods from the local area. This change of the palette has happened very quickly throughout First Nations communities.

During the 1950’s and 60’s, shortly after World War II had provided a higher military presence along the western coast of Canada, bulk shipments of food were transported to First Nations reserves where First Nations peoples were now confined to small parcels of land and could not travel with the migrating herds of caribou, moose, salmon and buffalo, or travel to the summer villages for the harvesting season. The common belief during this time was that First Nations peoples were poor and undernourished because the majority of their food sources originated directly from the surrounding land and sea. As an act of compassion food was shipped in to First Nations reserves. These donated foods included: canned pork, sugar, flour, and other food items that could be transported and preserved for long durations of time. Needless to say these foods were a stark contrast to the high-protein diet that had been evident among our people for countless generations. As a result, the diet and lifestyle of our people changed seemingly overnight. Compound this with the damaging effects of the residential school experience, crippling laws that inhibited traditional lifestyles and alcoholism and you have a recipe for disaster.

Today, we are surrounded and continuously bombarded with a barrage of unhealthy, fast and convenient foods. Our berry picking songs erased from our memories and replaced with TV jingles… “ba-da ba-da-da, I’m loving it.” Pop, chips and chocolate bars have become the most common trade items among our people. Our people have been very resilient. We have survived smallpox, measles, influenza, whooping cough, tuberculosis but we are not yet through this onslaught of disease. Today, we are confronted with disproportionate rates of cancer, arthritis, heart disease and most of all diabetes!

As a family we recognize that action must be taken. Every member of my family is genetically predisposed to diabetes. As a First Nations man my life expectancy is the lowest in the country. The disease has become intergenerational through my wife and my maternal and paternal lineages. Never before has a disease permeated so deeply into our way of life. In an effort to combat this assault upon our health we seek to draw strength from our ancestral ways. We appreciate the medicinal aspects of our indigenous foods and aim to use these foods as a way out of this position.

Over the past several months we prepared ourselves for this challenge. Although we maintained a consistently unhealthy diet we harvested and preserved a wide assortment of indigenous foods. These foods include: deer, moose, salmon, cod, shellfish, sea asparagus, bull kelp, eulichan grease, seaweed, frozen and dried fruit and berries, and locally grown vegetables. We have canned, frozen, smoked and dried many of these foods to preserve them for the winter season. Our plan is to engage in a strictly indigenous diet for four months beginning on November 14th 2010 and ending on March 14th 2011. Throughout this challenge we will monitor our weight, blood pressure, and heart rate as well as psychological, emotional and spiritual self-assessments. The diet we will follow will primarily consist of indigenous foods harvested locally and/or in other regions by indigenous sources. We have allowed ourselves to include locally produced fruits and vegetables throughout this challenge and also locally milled oats and similar products found at the local farmers market.

We appreciate that there will be some obstacles encountered throughout this challenge. As a family of eight we are constantly dealing with an assortment of issues around food. School snacks and lunches (our children went to school with a snack of dried moose meat and dried apples, they were surrounded by the other students willing to trade their chocolate and juice boxes for a piece) this will require more effort on our behalf, extended family dinners and celebrations, the winter holidays, and out of town business trips are all areas that we anticipate the biggest challenges. And of course we will have to deal with withdrawal from certain ingredients that are no longer in our diet – sugar, dairy, flour, and chocolate to name a few. Also, during this challenge we will be welcoming a new addition. We feel that the challenge will not necessarily be an easy one but the rewards will be amazing!

John Rampanen, Nitanis Desjarlais and family

Also Victor Reece did the logo for Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities Indigenous Foods Network

It was one of his last designs before he got too sick.

Whale in its natural elements represents the top of the food chain. The face emerging from the blow hole represents the humans who use the resources the same as the whale. The copper colour represents the wealth amongst the West Coast People. The eye of the Whale is a Salmon, Trout head and it depicts the beginning of life, as we know it today, of the ocean. The shadow of the Killer Whale represents the passing of information from one generation to the next. The shadow represents the ancestors, whose knowledge and wisdom we honour.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Regional meeting in Alert Bay

Alert Bay is inviting everyone to come and spend Aboriginal day with the community to celebrate

June 21st, 2010
Hosts: NI Food Security Network & ‘Namgis Traditional Foods Coordinator

We will meet in the morning (place to be determined) of the 21st to share information about community food initiatives, then do some planting of berry bushes and fruit trees in the CICG in the afternoon.

It would be nice if those who can make it would bring a plant donation for the Cormorant Island Community Garden & ‘Namgis Pre-natal Garden project!

Can those of you who will be attending the VICCIFN regional meeting in Alert
Bay, please RSVP by Wed., June16th. This will allow us time to plan for the
amount of food we will need to prepare! Thank you! Please send confirmation
to Sharon Gordon at

Check out this lovely video