5 places to explore Canada’s indigenous food culture | Catch My Job



Growing up in Toronto, my knowledge of indigenous communities was limited to a few days of history class. In textbooks, the descriptions of the past were dubious, littered with the now familiar “White savior” rhetoric.

Aboriginal Canadians have been trying to reclaim their culture from the church and government for almost two centuries. The horrors they faced ranged from Europeans usurping land to having to move children from their homes to abusive boarding schools.

In the past few years, there has been a focus on reconciliation: land recognition, improving education within Indigenous communities and an increase in Indigenous-led tourism, much of which focuses on food.

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Paul Natrall of the Squamish Nation is one of the people leading the Indigenous movement for culinary tourism. He is a chef, restaurant owner, television presenter and part of the Canadian Indigenous Tourism Association. He is also the British Columbia representative for Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations, a chef-led organization focused on using food to influence Canada’s relationship with Indigenous culture.

At this year’s Chef Camp, an annual celebration of Canadian food organized by chefs, for chefs, Natrall hosted a special event that combined traditional native foods with European techniques. As he sees it, food is the perfect catalyst for people to connect and heal.

“Growing up, the kitchen was a bonding place,” Natrall said with a smile. “Food was medicine and time [together as a family] it was nourishment.”

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He reflected fondly on the traditional cooking methods he learned from his grandmother: how salmon was dried by the wind, beetroot roasted in the ground and mussels grilled straight from the sea. He felt a sense of pride, love and belonging when they cooked side by side. Unfortunately, these hunting, gathering and cooking practices were largely discouraged by a government that aimed to eradicate indigenous culture throughout the country.

“It’s important to keep our food culture alive,” he said. “In any city you can get so many styles of food: Chinese, Thai, Italian … but you never get native food. These are traditional [cooking] methods have been around for thousands of years, and we need to display it—revive it—show the world our culture. We’re finally starting to see more of that.”

Through educational meals and outdoor activities that include traditional methods of gathering, preparing and cooking food, Canada’s indigenous community offers tourists a way to better understand and connect with their culture.

Grazing and grilling with the Three Fires Confederacy in Ontario

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The Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory is a First Nations Reserve located on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, east of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Made up of the Three Fires Confederacy (Ojibwa, Odawa and Pottawatomi nations), Wikwemikong Tourism hosts and organizes excursions including fishing trips, maple syrup harvesting, portaging, pow wows and theater.

They also offer culinary excursions such as hiking along the scenic Bebamikawe Memorial Trail while foraging for edible foods and natural ingredients along the forest floor. Along with a First Nations guide, guests learn how to identify and harvest ingredients such as mushrooms and berries and pair them with wild game, fish, birds and hot and cold teas made from herbs and plants. At the end of the day, guests prepare their findings over an open fire.

Local guide to Toronto

Visit the Nk’Mip winery in British Columbia

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Nk’Mip Cellars has the distinction of being the first Native winery in North America, owned and operated by the Osoyoos Indian Band. It is located in the Okanagan Valley, one of Canada’s prized wine regions. Nestled between rolling hills and a sparkling lake, this beautiful winery proudly practices sustainable farming. Nk’Mip Cellars has also won a wide variety of accolades for its high quality reds, buttery whites and crisp rosés.

Visitors to the winery can experience flights at the main tasting bar or enjoy semi-private tastings with chef-inspired pairings. For a more in-depth experience, guests can reserve the Four Chiefs Food Experience, which explores four key elements of native cuisine (bear, salmon, bittern and Saskatoon berry) with Nk’Mip wine pairings.

Nk’Mip Cellars recently launched a tasting experience at District Wine Village in Oliver, BC – Canada’s first wine village – featuring 16 different Okanagan artisans and craft producers.

Local guide to Vancouver

Order a fine dining meal at Naagan in Ontario

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Founded by Ojibwa chef Zach Keeshig, Naagan is a unique restaurant that only operates on weekends and sells out weeks in advance. Keeshig, who has cooked at top restaurants in Canada such as Langdon Hall and Eigensinn Farm, creatively combines modern cuisine with traditional Ojibwa fare. Limiting seating to just 13 guests means Keeshig can guide diners through the ingredients, cooking methods and cultural significance of each unique dish he plates.

Located in the largest Owen Sound in Southern Ontario, Naagan offers a nine-course tasting menu that includes foraged ingredients such as corn or peaches in the summer, and carrots or beets in the fall.

Keeshig also hosts foraging trips, cooking demonstrations and private dinners.

Attend the Algonquin festival near Ottawa

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Mādahòkì Farm was built on Algonquin Nation land near the Canadian capital. Officially launched in 2021, the space hosts a series of events throughout the year that celebrate the Algonquin language and culture by season: Sīgwan (spring), Tagwàgi (autumn), Pibòn (winter) and The annual Summer Fun Indigenous Festival.

Each event offers traditional Algonquin foods, music, pow wows and creative workshops where families can make dream catchers, play drums, participate in storytelling or participate in a pow wow.

This exciting event space and working farm also stables five endangered Ojibwe Spirit Horses and hosts a year-round Native Market that promotes products such as art, jewelry, coffee or soaps, and made by local Indigenous craftsmen.

Fishing and enjoying trails around Red Bank Lodge in New Brunswick

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Owned by the Red Bank Nation, Red Bank Lodge sits high on a hill overlooking the clear Miramichi River. The large cedar cabin nestled in dense evergreen forest was built by the local indigenous community. Wildlife graze peacefully along the quiet walking paths that wind through the trees and along the river.

River Bank Lodge is famous for its Atlantic salmon fishing, attracting anglers from all over the world. His Culinary Fishing Experience — which costs about $1,400 — includes lodging, native-led fishing excursions and Mi’kmaq meals of smoked fish and shellfish, or boiled meats like venison or caribou. The fishing season runs from mid-April to October and these experiences are booked months in advance.

For more information on Canada’s Indigenous tourism offerings, visit: https://Indigenoustourism.ca/


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