Indigenous Food Circle in Ontario using food production as tool for reconciliation

Indigenous Food Circle hopes one day program will lead to self determination


A group in Thunder Bay called the Indigenous Food Circle is linking traditional harvesting and food preparation to help people get back to their roots.

“Food feeds your spirit,” says Shelby Gagnon. “The moose meat, that rice, that plant that you have in your tea.”

Gagnon is the project coordinator of the circle which offers community workshops on harvesting and preparing foods.

Marcel Bananish is the knowledge keeper with the organization.

“At the age of five I was hauling beaver across a frozen lake with my grandfather who was born in 1902,” Bananish said. “So it’s those teachings I’m passing on the next and these girls are doing such a remarkable job in doing that.”

The group is also offering workshops in First Nation communities on trapping, making fish pemmican and bear grease.

“Food is so integral to how, you know, we are as Indigenous people,” said Gagnon. ”It’s what we feast together, we come together as community.”

The Indigenous Food Circle also promotes urban Indigenous food security in the region.

A coalition of 24 Indigenous led or serving organizations wants to change the way food is provided.

Coordinator Jessica Mclaughlin says she’s continuing to seek long term strategies to food self determination.

“We also need to think about industrialization and resource development,” she said. “Maybe there’s a different kind of economy that we’re looking for. So that we do actually have seven or 20 more generations.”

Bananish recommends seeking answers within.

“It’s listening to that little thing inside of us saying, ‘this is what you need.’ But we need to silence the other things, the fats in our lives, the greases in our life, because it’s those things that will deter us from what will help us move through.”

Upcoming workshops will take place this fall with virtual options available.

Crystal Hardy is a member of Biinjitiwabik Zaaging Anishnabek. Her Spirit name is Zongwe Binesikwe, which means Sounding Thunderbird Woman. She has worked as a nurse practitioner and educator in Northwestern Ontario. She is working towards a PhD in nursing at Queen’s University on decolonizing health care practices. Crystal joined the APTN news team in August 2020 as the video journalist in Thunder Bay.