Inspired by her father’s battle with cancer, Mi’kmaw woman opens healthy café

When Kateri Stevens’ father was battling cancer, she helped in one of the ways she could by making healthy meals.

“It was a hard time, we were all preparing for him to go and I thought about how can we, you know, help him,” she said.

Whether it was making him a smoothy in the morning – or researching something healthy to eat, Stevens’ helped keep his strength up.

She also found that there was a need for healthier options in her community of Eskasoni First Nation, located in Unamak’i – also known as Cape Breton Island.

It inspired Stevens and her fiancé, Antle Marshall, to open Sequoia’s Café in the summer of 2022.

“We noticed that one of the main, I guess, things that were sold were just fast food,” she told APTN News. “So I wanted to bring in change and where people had the opportunity to actually take care of themselves as like my father did.”

Sequoia’s Café
‘I think like how is this going to benefit everyone,’ says Stevens. Photo: Angel Moore/APTN.

Her father’s cancer is now in remission.

Gerry Denny is now cooking at the café.

“I enjoy being with family and meeting new people and just enjoying life and happy to be alive now,” he said.

Stevens has seven employees and said the café provides a place for people to come together. Especially now that COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.

“I felt alone a lot, you know I felt like we were isolated a lot I just wanted to bring people to me, I’m really a family-orientated person,” she said.

Sequoia’s Café
Denny’s cancer is in remission and he’s now cooking at the café. Photo: Angel Moore/APTN.

The café seats about 25 people. The food is prepared fresh every day.

“Another thing was to give people the Mi’kmaw vibe, you know what I mean? You walk in here, you see Mi’kmaw art here and give community members a chance to show their artwork,” she said.

Denny said the best part of his job is the customers.

“You never see them in a long time, and all of a sudden, they appear and it’s always good to see them,” he said.

Stevens also hopes the Sequoia helps bring people to the community, “to appreciate how beautiful Eskasoni is, how beautiful our artwork is, how beautiful our people are. I don’t really think in a small box, I don’t think it’s only business local money, I think like how is this going to benefit everyone else and that’s one of my drives, benefitting everyone so I guess that’s the mother in me you know.”

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