Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


april 21, 2001 - Issue 34



New Food Guide Tailored to Inuit


 CBC News North

IQALUIT, NUNAVUT - Inuit are being told that their traditional foods should continue to be an important part of their diet. That's why Nunavut's new Food Guide includes things you won't find in southern guides such as bone marrow for calcium, and fat for vitamin A and other nutrients.

Aaju Peter won't have any problems following the new food guide. She loves "country food."

"The brains, with fat and blackberries, that is so good," she says as she prepares a stew from a freshly caught seal. Peter has access to other food imported from southern Canada, but she prefers traditional food.

"I need to have the blood, I need to have all the brains and the fat – it invigorates me," she says.

In many remote communities fruits, vegetables and milk products are rare, or very expensive. But health officials are now recognizing – and spreading the word – that calcium and other nutrients can be consumed through such things as bone marrow.

"So even though Inuit have not traditionally eaten fruits and vegetables, they would get the nutrients that you typically get from fruits and vegetables from country foods," says Brenda McIntyre, a Nunavut nutritionist.

That's why the new food guide is tailored to the unique eating habits of Inuit. Rather than having pork or beef in the meat section, it will contain things like beluga whale, caribou and seal. And under fruits and vegetables; wild berries and seaweed.

"This is just a small way of reinforcing that what we have in the north is very healthy," says health promoter Ainiak Korgak.

Health problems like diabetes and some cancers are beginning to show up in Nunavut– diseases that the Inuit say have never seen here before. Many blame changes in lifestyle and poor diet.

Health-care workers hope that once the new food guide is released in a few months, it will encourage people to return to more traditional and healthy eating habits.

Manomin, Moosemeat and Maple
Traditional Foods and Medicines for good health
Aboriginal peoples’ Diabetes Prevention and Management
A Public Symposium and Workshop
May 18 - 25, 2001
Native Canadian Centre Of Toronto
16 Spadina Rd.
Toronto, ON
Cost: $1,095.00 (CAN) Scholarships may be available
For more information and to register online:

The Manomin, Moosemeat and Maple symposium and workshop brings together traditional healers, health practitioners, health educators, traditional foods chefs and herbalists to share knowledge and wisdom used for prevention of chronic disease. We draw on the extensive knowledge and authentic food and medicines of the Anishenabek and the Haudenosaunee of the Great Lakes area in search of a remedy for the diabetes epidemic and strategies for successful management of the disease. The seven-day program will be conducted at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto in Ontario Canada May 18-24, 2001.

Diabetes is receiving a great deal of attention among native and non-native peoples in the western hemisphere but little attention is paid to the role of traditional foods and medicine for prevention and management. Diabetes constitutes an epidemic among Native peoples from Anishenabek territories to the Cowlitz and Zuni and among the nations of Mexico and Central America where upwards to 80% of tribal members have sugar metabolism dysfunction. Where indigenous peoples continue to practice traditional diets, there is virtually no diabetes. The devastating effect on personal health and culture of diabetes or glucose intolerance syndromes on native peoples is now being experienced among peoples of European origin.

Diabetes is a metabolic dis-order emblematic of the physical social, psychological and spiritual disruption of the “metabolism” of daily life among many native peoples. Refined foods such as flour and sugar, canned foods that are denatured, a sedentary lifestyle and stress has produced t profound disruption to healthy bodies and minds of aboriginal people, resulting in an epidemiology of pathological conditions leading to early mortality, disability, and dysfunction. The “sweetness” of life, represented among the Anishnabek by Ode Minin—the heart berry or strawberry, has been lost to the current and future generations of Native people who suffer from the chronic intergenerational stresses and traumas endemic in Native communities – most graphically seen in the epidemic that is diabetes..

The role of stress, the metropolitan diet and the lack of physical exercise are increasingly recognized as central causative factors to this thoroughly preventable disease. Research suggests that authentic foods and medicines bring balance to the body, mind and spirit. Health practitioners and Native peoples living on reserves and in urban communities, however, frequently do not generally turn to traditional foods and medicines nor do they necessarily possess the knowledge to make appropriate diet changes.

There are over 1500 plants with hypoglycemic and anti-diabetic properties—many of them indigenous to the North American continent and specifically the Anishnabek and Haudenosaunee territories.

Our symposium and workshop learning will utilize a pedagogy focusing on the kitchen, food selection, preparation techniques, nutrition, the appropriate use of supplements, stress reduction and specialized massage techniques to enhance circulation in people with diabetes or individuals susceptible to diabetes. We will address research on the role of blood type and digestion/assimilation. Each participant will have the opportunity to learn their blood type and to take their blood glucose levels. We will also understand the use of refined foods (metropolitan) and their addictive effects on psycho-physiological processes.

The two-way symposium is open to the public and will be extensively advertised in the Native community of Toronto and surrounding First Nation communities and will present an overview of the issues, from research to practice, with opportunities for personal exchange, sharing and learning new skills and remembering old knowledge. Time will be spent in the kitchen preparing authentic foods. People learn about the role of sugar, wheat, refined foods, mood, stress and have fun. Strategies for working with healers and health providers will be shared

Following the symposium, a five day workshop is held for health providers and healers, educators students and family members from all walks of life who want to learn state-of-the-art approaches to integrating traditional foods and cooking, medicines including plants, supplements stress reduction culturally appropriate methods of healing.
Talk and discussion is balanced by hands-on and experiential learning.

The Manomin, Moosemeat and Maple Workshop incorporates the knowledge of healers and herbalists who will play a role as guest lecturers as well as participate in a Walk in the Woods with noted Mohawk Elder, herbalist and healer Janice Longboat at the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Taking advantage of the remaining northern fringe of Mixed Carolinian forest preserved in Toronto’s High Park participants will also examine the persistence of healing plants in an urban environment and be exposed to strategies for access to traditional foods. This will provide opportunity for participants to examine wider issues of food security. There will also be a tour arranged to a Native controlled Aboriginal Health Clinic, which incorporates traditional healing with allopathic medicine to successfully treat Native people in the city.

Taking advantage of the multicultural character of the City of Toronto (recognized by the United Nations as the most multicultural city in the world), participants will be encouraged to explore the many ethnic neighborhoods, markets and restaurants of the City in search of new food ways, and specific events will be arranged to explore the markets of Chinatown (one of the largest in North America) and Kensington, recognizing that clinical studies on diabetes are increasingly showing that treatment which combines a number of different approaches is not only most effective but also contributes most to quality of life.




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