The Anishinaabeg, meaning “from whence lowered” in Anishinaabemowin, are diverse peoples and nations living around the Great Lakes. They are one of many nations that have cared for the land since creation. Anishinaabe foodways and relations are vital for caring for connections with other people, animals, plants, water and the land. These connections support community building promoting positive health and wellbeing.

Elder Shishigo, Dr. Brenda Wastasecoot, Chef Billy Alexander, Chef Shane Chartrand and  Joseph Pitawanakwat have come together to talk about food and community through Miijim Dibaajimowin/ food stories, offering diverse perspectives and sharing stories.

Learning to cook comes from watching and learning from the community. Parents and grandparents, as many generations before, passed down recipes and techniques orally and by cooking together. These are moments for care, laughter, and sharing stories where memories are made.  There are many different ways of making and cooking bannock. Elder Shishigo and her daughter, Audrey Rochette, share stories and show how they make bannock at home.

Cooking Bannock with Elder Shishigo

 

 

Elder Shishigo’s bannock recipe:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 ½ cups of water
  • Enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan
  • ½ cup of raisin (optional)

Coat the bottom of a frying pan with oil and turn the stove on to medium heat. Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Add the water and mix until it forms a dough. Add flour if it is too wet. Flatten the dough and cut a hole in the middle. Carefully place dough into the hot oil. Turn the bannock in the pan so it cooks evenly and flip the dough when it is fluffy and golden brown.

Bannock is a food that continues to change and can be used in many different ways. Berries can even be added to sweeten.

The Dish with One Spoon teaches us a way of living that nurtures relationships. It means to take only what is needed and leave enough for others. We all have the responsibility to care for Mother Earth.

Eating together is about sharing food, stories, and each other’s company.

Wellness and Sharing Food

 

Anishinaabeg make many forms of bread. These breads are made with gifts from Mother Earth.  Turtle Island (North America) is large and is home to many plants that are used in creating them.

Joseph Pitawanakwat speaks about the Anishinaabeg nut-based bread called baganaak, one of the precursors of bannock.

Baganaak

 

In the 17th and 18th centuries, European empires expanded in a long and complex process known as colonialism. Europeans introduced many things to Turtle Island (North America), including wheat. The Scottish called their wheat bread, bannach. This may have been the origin of the word bannock.

In the 19th century, the Canadian government began forcing Indigenous people onto reservations, restricting their access to their ancestral lands and way of life. The government gave rations that included white flour, salt, sugar, lard, and milk. These were known as the “five white gifts.” Many Indigenous people applied their knowledge of making bread to include these new ingredients.

Is Bannock Indigenous?

 

Labrador tea is a traditional medicine and important part of Anishinabeg culture. Joseph Pitawanakwat explains the importance of reconnecting with this medicine to help manage diabetes and counter issues with digesting foods that have a high sugar content, such as bannock.  Diabetes is a disease that causes high blood sugar due to the body lacking insulin or being unable to process the insulin it does produce. It is connected to metabolism; the process through which the body turns food into sugar or energy.

Diabetes and Labrador Tea

 

 

*Any content provided on “Indigenous People’s Month” is not designed or intended to constitute medical advice. It is not meant to be used for diagnosis or treatment. Please talk to your medical doctor to help you make decisions about your treatment or medication.

Learn more about diabetes prevention from Toronto Public Health.

Content Warning: video contains discussions on residential school.

Residential school survivors who need support can call the Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419. The line is available 24 hours a day, every day of the week.

Boarding school/residential school tried to take Indigenous languages, food and beliefs. The survivors are still here, strong and proud and continue to share stories and language.

In her children’s book, Granny’s Giant Bannock, Dr. Brenda Wastasecoot uses the experience of cooking bannock together to tell the importance of connecting with relations and reconnecting with one’s language.  You can watch Dr. Wastasecoot read her book here.

Granny’s Giant Bannock

 

Gifts can be signs of respect and a custom for many. Reciprocity or gift giving is an important part of forming relationships. Elders receive many gifts, and at family meals Elders also eat first; this is a sign of respect. Food sharing can be used for reciprocity and to form bonds between individuals and nations.

Chef Chartrand discusses forming a relationship with other nations through food, including the Blood Tribe who live in southern Alberta. He is introduced in this video by Jennifer Cockrall-King who co-authored “tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine”.

A Reflection on Food Friendships

 

People have a responsibility to care for the generations to come.

Food is not just something consumed; it can help bring people together. It creates opportunities for gathering, forming new relationships, and sharing experiences and stories. Just as we respect each other, we should also respect the plants, animals, water, and land around us.

Chef Billy Alexander describes his relationship with the plants and animals he uses in his cooking as grounded in the way his ancestors ate and driven by his responsibility to future generations.

Our ancestors can teach us the way forward. We learn to live in peace with our world, through food.

Food and Seven Generations

 

Meet the Team

 

Chef Billy Alexander

Chef Billy Alexander is the Executive Chef and Culinary Advisor for Caldwell First Nation located in Leamington southern Ontario. He is a world-renowned and globally trained chef, cultural pundit, and social advocate. He masterfully combines his formal culinary training with a heartfelt homage to the recipes and techniques of his mother, grandmother and childhood community matriarchs. Chef Alexander shares his stories and teachings along with many others for Caldwell First Nation within Three Fires restaurant and vineyard making history with the largest Indigenous restaurant in the world and first Indigenous vineyard in eastern Canada.

Chef Shane Chartrand

Chef Shane Chartrand is of the maskêkosak Enoch Cree Nation in Treaty 6 territory. He is one of Canada’s leading chefs, and is actively involved in the re-emergence of Indigenous cuisine in Canada. He competed on television’s Chopped Canada, Iron Chef Canada, and Fridge Wars. He was a judge on Food Network Canada’s Wall of Chefs (Season 1) and featured in the award-winning documentary series Red Chef Revival. In 2019, his award-winning cookbook, tawaw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine was published. “Dream with me,” is all he asks.

Elder Shishigo Gijjig

Elder Shishigo Gijjig is Anishinaabe from Wabadowgan/Whitesand First Nation. Fluent in Ojibway, Shishigo has worked on several projects in the Toronto area including Indigenous docent at the Royal Ontario Museum, facilitator for the Ministry of Education, and sharing circle coordinator for the Indigenous Students’ Association at the University of Toronto. She also contributes to the urban Indigenous community as a guiding Elder with work centered on reconciliation.

Joseph Pitawanakwat

Joseph Pitawanakwat is a member of the Wikiwemikong First Nation and resides on Manitoulin Island. As a holistic health and plant educator, Joseph primarily uses three methods when researching any plant-based medicine – Traditional Proof, Scientific Proof and the Doctrine of Signatures, an ancient method of interpreting plants by looking at their features.

Dr. Brenda Isabel Wastasecoot

Dr. Brenda Isabel Wastasecoot is a member of the York Factory Cree Nation, born and raised at Churchill, Manitoba. She became a mental health worker and counsellor in Indigenous communities near Brandon, Manitoba. She worked for 9 years in the First Nations and Aboriginal Counselling Degree program at Brandon University. Currently, Dr. Wastasecoot teaches Indigenous Studies courses at the University of Toronto.  Her pedagogic forte is grounded in her stories of historic trauma, relating stories to students from her own personal experience of being a Native girl during the sixties.

 

For more information about the exhibit or its use for programming please contact Audrey Rochette.

Miigwech/thank you for sharing your time today and try these recipes.

Acknowledgements

This exhibit was co-curated by Lindsay Chisholm and Dominica Tang. Elder Shishigo, Dr. Brenda Wastasecoot, Chef Shane Chartrand, Joseph Pitawanakwat, and Chef Billy Alexander shared their knowledge, ideas, experiences, time and stories and Jennifer Cockrall-King supported the project. The University of Toronto School of Cities supported and funded the translation of the exhibit and the City of Toronto and the University of Toronto Faculty of Information provided the opportunity and supported the creation of this exhibit.