Hunting is part of a “beautiful system” in the Six Nations, among the traditional foods highlighted in a Canadian study


Saturday marks the last day of this year’s deer hunt at Short Hills Provincial Park, where the Six Nations of the Grand River are exercising the hunting rights mentioned in the Treaty of Nanfan to help keep the deer population in the Niagara region in Ontario.

The Treaty of Nanfan, or Treaty of Fort Albany of 1701, gives members of the Six Nations the right to hunt and fish in the Dundas Valley as part of the traditional hunting territory of the Haudenosaunee. Since 2013, the park has been open for hunting for six separate days between October and December.

The fruits of the hunt are valuable for several reasons – and an example of traditional foods that a recent study found is the best option for members of First Nations communities.

The main conclusions of the decade First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study (FNFNES), released in October, found that adopting a non-traditional diet has had a negative impact on Indigenous Nations, and “nearly half of all First Nations families have difficulty putting in enough weight. of food on the table ”.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Ottawa, the University of Montreal and the Assembly of First Nations. They found that obesity rates among the Aboriginal population are double the rate among Canadians, with one-fifth of the Aboriginal adult population suffering from diabetes.

Malek Batal, a senior member of the ENFNE steering committee and professor in the nutrition department at the University of Montreal, said it is clear that better access to healthier traditional foods is the most logical path. But even after the release of preliminary recommendations in recent years, there is still work to be done.

“I think the study has not been ignored by First Nations leaders and members, but I have yet to see tangible examples of federal or provincial programs that address food access issues. traditional and systemic health disparities, ”said Batal. in an email.

The study also found that many indigenous nations wish to have more traditional food, but barriers exist including government regulations, business activities such as mining and farming, and loss of territory.

These foods have been shown to be far superior in nutritional value, Batal said, and can provide food security for Indigenous families – aspects well known to hunters in the Six Nations community, including those who participate in the Short Hills hunt this past. season.

Hunting has been passed down from generation to generation

One of those Six Nations hunters is John Monture.

“It’s definitely better meat than what you buy in the store, and I’m very proud of it,” Monture said. “I am 100% sure [reclaiming our traditional diet]. “

A hunter for 18 years, Monture relies on his father. He started filming his releases as Monture Outdoors, a YouTube channel, five years ago, and also works as a media producer for Buckdown Boys TV, an indigenous hunting collective.

Monture said the relationship with food and land extends to treaty rights.

“A big part of what I’m saying is if we don’t exercise our rights, we will lose them,” he said, adding that hunting is something that is passed down through generations.

This helps provide meat for his family in the winter, as a single deer can survive most of the colder months. Buckdown TV Hunters also provide meat to the Six Nations Longhouses. They lay tobacco during the hunts, and Monture says he learned patience, perseverance, and tenacity through the hunt, qualities that are valued in the Haudenosaunee culture.

It’s definitely better meat than what you buy in the store and I’m very proud of it.– John Monture, Six Nations hunter

Celeste Smith, a member of the Peel Action Food Council (PAFC), which was established to work towards a sustainable food system in Peel Region while reflecting the diversity of its residents, said hunters providing deer meat for the ceremony in the longhouses are “essential”. “

“We need this deer for the ceremony, we need it for our drums and for all that we are as a people, so it is a cultural right,” she said.

Smith, also the founder and owner of Cultural Seeds, a Manitoulin Island-based Indigenous garden consulting service, hosted a publicly accessible presentation with the PAFC to provide context to various Haudenosaunee treaty rights and rights on 11 November. of the main ideals on which she strongly insists.

“This type of meat is biologically perfect for us, and we as aboriginals should be eating the food that we have always eaten and there are far too many deer in Ontario,” she said.

Smith explained that provincial parks in Canada are considered Crown land, which makes them Indigenous lands held in trust and comes with hunting rights. She named hunting rights as one of the most important rights of indigenous peoples.

“Treaty rights are tied to the land, and the land is tied to us through our culture,” she said. “For the Haudenosaunee, in our stories, we are made of the clay of the earth. Often Western or Eurocentric thinking does not correspond to this.”

An old tradition comes to life

This alignment was echoed in the teachings that Eddie Thomas, the cultural resource for Ganohkwasra’s Six Nations Family Assault Support Services, was provided by his family members.

“The first thing I learned is that we don’t waste anything; we use the whole animal, ”he said. “It teaches us not to waste.”

In the past, Thomas would hunt with his family members, a role his cousins ​​continue to fill. Thomas said the teachings were rooted with the spiritual aspects of taking life and offering tobacco.

He spoke of the Peacekeeper, colloquially referred to as Hiawatha, who provided a constitution that redirected the United Haudenosaunee to a regime that included deer, to emphasize the animal’s anointing as the leader among the four-legged beings.

One thing he hopes everyone can understand is that the Haudenosaunee have hunted game since time immemorial.

“Our way of life has always been like this, and it comes down to this animal surviving on this Earth,” he said. “My grandmother used to say, ‘You are what you eat.'”

This position has inspired some Six Nations chefs to incorporate country foods into their meals.

Aicha Smith-Belghaba, owner of Esha’s Eats, is one of the Six Nations of the Grand River chefs who incorporate traditional foods into their meals. “Traditionally, food is medicine,” she says. (@ whynotannie / Twitter)

“It is important to incorporate indigenous foods into our diets because it is better for your overall health, at all levels,” said Chef Aicha Smith-Belghaba, owner of Esha’s Eats. “It’s resilience against colonization by bringing native foods back into an ordinary, standardized, everyday type of diet, as opposed to eating only traditional foods every now and then. “

Through the restoration, Smith-Belghaba swapped the potatoes for white beans and used squash in place of the usual stuffing or thickening for soups. Her brother now hunts, although she says many families have been affected by colonization to the point where they no longer hunt at all. She recalled that the nutritional value of food is incomparable.

“Traditionally speaking, food is medicine.”

She said food preparation was a family practice that brought members closer to their food and where it came from. Today, people no longer eat together and grow food from seed to plate, she said, and she believes hunting is more humane than harvesting marketed food.

“It’s not just senseless murder. There is a purpose to it, and you are aware of the life that you take and give thanks,” she said. “It’s a beautiful system.”

Indigenous foods are more than food; it’s a way of life, it’s our history, it’s our culture, it’s a way of fighting for our rights.– Aicha Smith-Belghaba, chef and owner of Esha’s Eats

This system, said Smith-Belghaba, has more influence on the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of Indigenous peoples than most people realize.

“Indigenous foods are more than food; it’s a way of life, it’s our history, it’s our culture, it’s a way to fight for our rights, and some people might see food as an obscure way to do it. But food being taken away from indigenous people was a calculated process. The powers that be couldn’t get rid of us unless they starve us.

“So food sovereignty is not just about food. It is about preserving knowledge, traditions and passing these traditions on to future generations, and being self-sufficient. ”


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