Food as helper, food as healer: How Cree Elders incorporate food into their helping and healing practices and the implications for Indigenous food sovereignty

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Martens, Tabitha Robin
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Historically and contemporarily, colonial policies and prejudices have deeply affected Indigenous food systems and thus Indigenous bodies. For Cree peoples in Manitoba, these policies include the criminalization of practicing traditional medicines, residential schools and land dispossession in the name of development. However, despite the challenges and interruptions to food and cultural systems, Cree Elders understand food to be sacred, and moreover, a healer. This qualitative study, grounded in Indigenous research methodologies, sought to investigate the role of food in Cree culture, through understanding how Elders incorporate food into their helping and healing practices. Using metaphor to make meaning of the Elder stories, this research articulates the role of food in Cree culture: through feeding oneself, one’s ancestors, and one’s community. The Elders revealed the rich depth of Cree food knowledges that underlie Cree culture, from star stories, language, and grieving ceremonies to knowledge of plant and food medicines. This dissertation is an exploration of Cree guidance for revitalizing and rebuilding Cree food systems as part of a larger Indigenous food sovereignty framework.
Indigenous; Cree; food; healing; helping