Passing things down: the meaning of traditional foods for resurgence and resilience in Wabaseemoong Independent Nations

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Muhajarine, Hannah
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Indigenous communities face on-going disruptions from colonization and global environmental change, including disruptions to their traditional food systems. Despite this, they continue to find ways both new and old to harvest, share, prepare, and consume traditional foods. This study focused on understanding the role traditional foods play in community members’ lives in Wabaseemoong Independent Nation in northwestern Ontario. I used an ethnographic approach that included participant observation, unstructured interviews (n=26), and focus groups (n=2) to explore what traditional food practices looked like within living memory, what they look like today, and the meanings they hold. I found that in Wabaseemoong, traditional food activities are shaped by a value for passing things down, which centers on practicing relationships with parents, ancestors, and land. It is through the practice of these relationships that skills, knowledge, and values are shared throughout the community and passed on to the next generation. Community members continue to pass things down and practice these important relationships despite colonial disruption and social, economic, and ecological change. They are continually finding new and creative ways to practice relationships in ways that maintain the value of reciprocity. The role of traditional foods for Indigenous communities today is often framed as nutritional or as strengthening cultural identity. This study suggests that the practice of relationship should be explored further as a framework for projects and programmes aimed at strengthening Indigenous traditional food systems.
Social-ecological resilience, Resurgence, Traditional foods, Indigenous food systems