Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: fish preservation is good for the soul

woman cutting fish

Sabrina cuts and prepares halibut

Salmon and halibut are important staples in the diet of many people in BC and continues to be a food of significance to coastal First Nations peoples. Sabrina Clifton, the Programs Manager at the Gitmaxmak’ay Prince Rupert and Port Edward Nisga’a Society is actively involved in programming that supports local Nisga’a members in preserving salmon. Sabrina has been smoking salmon and making k’ayukws (smoked & dried salmon strips) for about 25+ years.

“There are different ways that Indigenous people prepare foods for preserving. The best teachers are our Elders. For 3 years classes have been held where our Elders mentor our youth and members. We have two smoke houses at the ‘Rupert Lawn & Garden’ available to our Gitmaxmak’ay Members. I think it is very important to continue to teach how to preserve traditional foods as the seafood is ‘our back yard’. Our Elders have so much to offer us; the knowledge they have is amazing. There are always tricks and different ways of preparing. We always learn something new. There is always a lot of laughter and when preparation is all finished you get a sense of accomplishment which is good for the soul.” -Sabrina Clifton

In addition to providing opportunities for Elders to share their knowledge and skills with youth and community members, Sabrina also works with Elders to organize traditional feasts twice a year for residents of Acropolis Manor-the local long term care facility. The feasts include locally prepared, seasonal foods such as fish chowder, moose soup, and roe on kelp. Local First Nations cultural entertainment is a highlight of the feasts.

salted salmon filets

Salmon is an excellent source of vitamin D, which is important in keeping bones strong and protecting from arthritis and cancer.

Salmon and halibut are important sources of nutrition. They are high in protein and B vitamins. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids that help protect against strokes and heart disease. Salmon is an excellent source of vitamin D, which is important in keeping our bones strong as well as protecting us from arthritis and cancer. Fish heads have been an important source of calcium for keeping one’s bones and teeth strong. Fish head soup is one way of getting these nutrients. Canned salmon is another but be sure to mash up the bones and not take them out, as they are high in calcium!

In addition to nutritional benefits, fishing and processing fish is good for the mind, body, and spirit. These activities have been and continue to be an important part of culture, connecting families, physical activity and mental wellness!

Here’s a recipe submitted by Sabrina for Fish Hash, a traditional way of preserving salmon:

Fish Hash

  1. Layer fresh or thawed frozen salmon with coarse salt in tightly covered air tight container and store for one month in a cool (below 20 degrees) dry place to cure. Both sides of the fish should be salted. Remove skin or place skin face down.
  2. To use it, soak salmon in water over night to remove most of the salt & salty taste; by this time it is firm in texture.
  3. Crumble and mix with mashed potatoes, diced onions and oolichan grease (optional)
  4. Bake in the oven until the top is toasted.
  5. Serve fish hash with toasted seaweed (hlak’askw) on top

Note: you can also use jarred salmon, smoked black cod, or jarred smoked salmon. Salt in appropriate concentrations inhibits the growth of bacteria. Use about a quarter the weight of seafood by weight.

Resources:

First Nations Traditional Food Fact Sheets

How to preserve seafood by dry and wet salting

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Foodie Friday: Living out your healthy cultural traditions

Culture is so important for health and wellness. It shapes how we define health and wellness and how we practice it.

As a society, health and wellness seem to be narrowly defined by weight. Health is much more than the physical parameter of weight, which is influenced by unrealistic beauty standards in Canada – it includes mental and emotional health. Sadly, when someone doesn’t fit the standard around weight, they may be treated in ways that harm their mental health. We need to stop blaming or shaming people for their weight or health issues. Most people who are overweight have tried very hard, often unsuccessfully, to lose weight—after all 95% of diets fail within 2 years. We are all built differently: healthy bodies exist in a variety of shapes and sizes. People of all sizes should be accepted and treated with respect. Our goal should therefore be supporting a healthy body image for all. I truly believe health is the responsibility of our society and communities. It’s about making the healthy choice the easy choice.

The holistic role of culture

Cultural traditions shared with me by my Indigenous colleagues are great examples of the holistic role culture plays in healthy eating, physical activity, healthy minds, and healthy relationships. Engaging in these activities supports individuals, families, and communities to be healthy in all aspects of their lives. Here are some activities that can be enjoyed in the summer months and, coupled with food preservation, can extend the health benefits throughout the year:

  • Berry picking with your friends and family
  • Salmon fishing
  • Gathering traditional plants and medicines
  • Seaweed gathering
  • Clam digging
  • Gathering herring
  • Hunting
  • Gardening

Here is what some of my colleagues shared:

“My family celebrates food and berry harvesting and preservation from the oolichan, the salmon, moose and bear.”

Lloyd McDames, the Aboriginal Patient Liaison in Terrace who is from the Kitselas First Nation

“As a whole, our community of ?Esdilagh First Nation comes together every year to a culture camp.  Our Chilcotin traditional healers come from neighbouring communities to our members. We have been bringing awareness to the community members about the traditional medicines and living off the land. The culture camp brings us together as a way of connecting to our community members so that we can all learn together as one and start living in a healthier way.”

-Thelma Stump, the Health and Wellness Manager for ?Esdilagh First Nation

Angie Combs, the Aboriginal Patient Liaison at Wrinch Memorial Hospital, picks Is (soapberries in Gitxsan). She said,

“I gather the berries in mid-June when they are green. I enjoy being active outdoors and find berry picking peaceful. It makes me happy because I know I will be preserving them and serving them in the middle of the winter for my friends and family. I look forward to the fun and laughter of when my family gathers to enjoy a bowl of freshly whipped Is.”

soapberry ice cream, woman preparing ice cream

Angie Combs whips up Yal Is for the residents at Wrinch Memorial Hospital.

Here is her recipe for Yal Is:

Yal Is (soapberry ice cream in Gitxsan) 

(serves 6- 8 people)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint canned green soapberries (canned in water)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)

Method:

  1. Put canned soapberries in a sieve. Crush berries.
  2. Strain through sieve to remove seeds, collecting the juice in a stainless steel or glass bowl.
  3. Add the water to the juice. Beat until frothy with electric beater.
  4. Add banana and continue to beat. Add sugar and continue to beat until stiff like stiff egg whites.
  5. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Note: the soapberries lose their volume quickly after mixing; however, all you need to do is mix it again with the beater until it forms firm peaks. Some berries used to be mixed by hand and some people still do this.

Want to learn more? Here are a couple of academic papers about Indigenous culture, body image, and traditional physical activity:

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Foodie Friday: discovering the rich history of Oolichan in the Northwest

Every spring, the oolichan (or Eulachon) return to the Nass and Skeena rivers in northern B.C. Oolichan are a small ocean fish that migrate long distances up rivers and streams to spawn annually. The oolichan return is a historically and culturally significant event. For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples along the Pacific Coast have valued oolichan as a food source, for their high oil content, and as an important ceremonial and trade item. Oolichan trading routes, known colloquially as grease trails, connected coastal communities with interior communities.

birds in air, river, fishing

The air was full of birds during the oolichan return!

Last weekend, I drove from Terrace along the Skeena River towards Prince Rupert and took pictures. Seagulls, eagles, and sea mammals were converging to feast on the oolichan! It’s truly a mesmerizing sight.

Oolichan can be fried, smoked, dried, salted, frozen, canned, or reduced to grease. My favorite way to have oolichan is smoked. I was fortunate to have smoked oolichan at a recent cultural learning event held in Gitanmaax. Elders and traditional knowledge holders shared Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en culture and traditional wellness practices with Northern Health staff. This was an amazing event organized by members of the Northwest East Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee (AHIC) and had over 60 attendees. Traditional First Nations foods were available and many Northern Health staff had their first taste of oolichan.

Oolichan is an excellent source of protein which is important for building and repairing muscles, skin, and blood. It is also high in iron, which we need to carry oxygen in our blood to keep our bodies strong, energetic, and to help prevent illness. Oolichan grease is high in vitamin A, which helps us prevent infection and keeps our skin and eyes healthy. An added bonus in oolichan is the high omega-3 fatty acid content, which helps prevent stroke and diabetes! See the First Nations Traditional Foods Fact Sheets for more information. Due to conservation concerns, oolichan cannot be harvested recreationally.

smoked fish

Oolichan is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

Smoked Oolichan

Directions:

  1. Wash the oolichan well under running water.
  2. Place the fish in a barrel of fresh water to which has been added enough coarse salt to float a potato (about 2 cups (500 ml) coarse salt in 3 gallons (12 l).
  3. Soak for about ½ hour to 1 hour or until the oolichan eyes turn white.
  4. Hang the oolichan for smoking by threading on cedar sticks. Push the strip of red cedar in through the gills and out through the mouth.
  5. Hang the oolichan on heavy sticks from the rafters in the smokehouse, making sure the fish are not touching each other. There needs to be enough space between each rack and the fish so that the smoke is even.
  6. Start the fire after the oolichan finish dripping. Use alder wood for smoking.
  7. Smoke the oolichan for 2-6 days. Smoke longer for drier fish.

Learn more about oolichan:

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Celebrating the unveiling of Gitxsan art at Wrinch Memorial Hospital

Curtain being pulled off of art piece.

Mary Vanstone and Chief George Gray unveiling the art.

This past fall, Mary Vanstone, local administrator for Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton, hosted an event celebrating the unveiling of Gitxsan art. Local Indigenous artwork in health care settings helps to create a more welcoming and culturally safe space. For many people at the event, the commissioning and unveiling of this artwork was more impactful than expected.

The artwork symbolizes robes of authority with a crest that depicts the Indian Residential School experience from the Gitxsan perspective. The Northwest East Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee commissioned the art for the hospital entrance as part of an initiative funded by Aboriginal Health to develop local cultural resources.

The art was made by residential school survivors participating in the Gitxsan Health Society Indian Residential School Resolution Health Support Program. At the unveiling event, several people who participated in its creation spoke about its meaning and their experiences working on it. Indian Residential School Resolution Health Support Worker Pamela Torres described the sessions where Indian Residential School survivors and family members from Kispiox, Sikedakh, and Gitanmaax came together, shared their stories, experiences, tears, and laughter as they worked to complete the beautiful artwork.

Also at the event, fellow support worker Gary Patsey described his experiences as an Indian Residential School survivor. He spoke about specific statistics of residential school impacts on the Gitxsan Huwilp and shared sensitive insights into his journey of healing. He challenged service providers to educate themselves on the 94 Calls to Action flowing from the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Ardythe Wilson, manager of the support program, concluded the event with a reminder that all health care workers and service providers in the area are in positions where they can become partners of true reconciliation by working with, and supporting, the Gitxsan in developing a reconciliation model. The unveiling was a significant event and those in attendance were visibly moved.

The art was designed by Michelle Stoney, whose grandparents survived residential school and now actively promote Gitxsan history and culture. The crest represents the four clans of the Gitxsan Huwilp inside a mother and child, portraying the matrilineal foundation of the Gitxsan Nation. It recognizes those who suffered the abduction of their children and the intergenerational healing that continues to take place as a result of the long-reaching impacts of residential schools.

Vanstone shared:

It was an honour to help organize and be part of this event. The unveiling event provided an open forum for discussion and a step toward healing from the atrocities of the residential school system and the trauma sustained by First Nations in this community. As a health facility supporting the people of this community, we acknowledge that we have a lot of work left to do, however, we are confident in the collaborative relationships we are building with our community partners. The artwork hangs in our foyer as a symbolic reminder of the unbreakable bond between mother and child and the strength provided by the Wolf, Fireweed, Frog and Eagle clans of the Gitxsan people.

Verna Howard, Community Engagement Coordinator with the First Nations Health Authority, helped organize this event and said:

This event has made a big difference. It’s the first time we have seen our First Nations people and dancers involved in the hospital system. I could see on the elders’ faces the impact the cultural dance group and cultural recognition had, especially for those who reside there. The community members and residential school survivors, who have heard talk about reconciliation but have seen little action, saw this as a great step forward.

The event followed local Gitxsan protocols with Chief George Gray providing a formal welcome to the traditional Gitxsan territory and Elder Frances Sampson, opening the event with a prayer. Following the unveiling, there was a reception in the cafeteria where the Gitxsan Cultural dancers performed. Verna Howard and I spoke about the role of Aboriginal Health Improvement Committees and how Northern Health, First Nations Health Authority, and Indigenous communities and organizations are partnering to improve the health of Indigenous peoples in the north. Hereditary Chief Ray Jones, a residential school survivor, shared about the three constant companions in residential school: hunger, loneliness, and fear.

Cormac Hikisch, Health Services Administrator for the northwest area said,

I was grateful to be a part of this event – witnessing local residential school survivors share their stories and express appreciation for the button blanket as recognition of their suffering. It helped provide me with a better understanding of the real impacts to this tragic part of Canadian history, and more deeply realise the still current trauma that First Nations are working to move forward from.

This event was one step in Northern Health’s journey to honour and acknowledge local First Nations and making health care environments more culturally safe.

The women who created this blanket are Amanda Wesley, Theresa Stevens, Virginia Fowler, Rebecca Jagoda, Cindy Martin and Mae Martin with guidance from Marjorie Mowatt and Sadie Mowatt. Final touch-ups were provided by Lavender Macdonald.

Three women with button blankets.

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Foodie Friday: Supporting culturally safe environments with traditional First Nations foods

As a member of the Aboriginal Health team at Northern Health, it’s really important to me to support culturally safe health care environments. When health care settings are inclusive of Indigenous cultures and traditions, they become more culturally safe for Indigenous people. That is why I was excited to learn how Northern Health staff are making traditional First Nations foods available to patients and residents!

Cook with Hugwiljum (fish soup)

Offering traditional First Nations foods in health care environments is an important step in creating an inclusive, welcoming, and culturally safe health system for Indigenous peoples.

In Hazelton, cooks Anita Lattie and Armin Wesley are excited to make traditional First Nations foods available to residents and patients at Wrinch Memorial Hospital. Both Armin and Anita are Gitxsan; Anita is from Gitanmaax and Armin is from Sik-E-Dakh.

“When patients and residents see foods they are familiar with, they enjoy it more,” said Anita about the response to the menu additions.

“I have been waiting for this,” said a resident about the Hugwiljum fish soup and bannock he was eating for lunch.

The process of adding new foods to the Northern Health menu repertoire involves putting the recipe in a consistent format, testing it with ten people, and then submitting it for approval and further testing. Support services coordinator Deana Hawkins explained to me that once the recipes are approved, they are added to the core menu across Northern Health so other sites can also serve them.

In the northwest, Mills Memorial Hospital, Terraceview Lodge, and Kitimat General Hospital now offer the Hugwiljum fish soup and bannock. Anita has just finished testing a salmon patty recipe to send for approval this week. “All the staff in the Wrinch Memorial kitchen are Aboriginal and it makes us feel good about our jobs to be able to do this,” said Armin. According to BC Stats, in Hazelton, 56.5% of the urban population is Aboriginal.

In Prince Rupert, dietitian Arlene Carlson works with Elders at the Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society and Friendship House to organize traditional feasts twice a year for residents of Acropolis Manor, the local long term care facility. The feasts include locally prepared, seasonal foods such as fish chowder, moose soup, and kelp on roe. Local First Nations cultural entertainment is a highlight of the feasts. “These feasts are really popular with First Nations and non-First Nations residents alike,” said Arlene. This work has helped create a policy within our organization of bringing in food for social functions and cultural events. Other policies are in place to support families to bring in food for their loved ones in long term care.

On Haida Gwaii, traditional foods are offered in both hospitals. In the south, the Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre – Xaayda Gwaay Ngaaysdll Naay serves local fish regularly on the menu and the Meals on Wheels program brings traditional food to Elders in the hospital on a weekly basis. In Masset, Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital & Health Centre residents are offered a special occasion meal once per month. Meals feature local and traditional ingredients such as fish, clams, deer, and locally grown vegetables. On Haida Gwaii, Shelly Crack and Tessie Harris are part of a national movement to incorporate sustainable food into the health care system; including more traditional foods.

Cultural safety is a priority for Northern Health. In July 2015, all BC Health Authority CEOs signed a declaration demonstrating their commitment to advancing cultural humility and cultural safety with their organizations. The goal of cultural safety is for all people to feel respected and safe when they interact with the health system. Culturally safe health services are free of racism and discrimination. People are supported to draw strengths from their identity, culture, and community. One of the features of a culturally safe health system is ensuring physical environments reflect local Indigenous communities and cultures.

Offering traditional First Nations foods in health care environments is an important step in creating an inclusive, welcoming and culturally safe health system for Indigenous peoples.

Hugwiljum (fish soup)

Makes 4-5 portions

Ingredients

  • 2 cups potatoes
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 3 salmon loins
  • 1 tbsp curry
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 litre water

Instructions

  1. Bring all ingredients to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender and salmon cooked.

 

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Foodie Friday: With gratitude to the hunters and the snow…

Moose in snow

Have you tried wild game before? Registered dietitian Victoria was hesitant at first but now has trouble going back to beef!

Winter is here and I am pretty excited. I love the first snowfall! Letting those first snowflakes settle on my face is one of my favorite winter moments. It’s a great time for families and friends to get out and have some fun together walking or playing in the snow.

After one of those outdoor winter adventures, it’s sure nice to come home to a hot meal. This is where a crock pot comes in handy! The recipe I’m sharing today is moose meat spaghetti sauce made in a crock pot so all you have to do is cook the pasta when you get home. Sound good? Of course, if you don’t have moose meat, you can always substitute ground beef.

I know many Indigenous people and northerners who hunt or have someone who hunts for them. I had the good fortune last year to be given some moose meat from a friend. I learned a lot from him about the best way to cook the meat and make sure it is safe to eat.

The First Nations Traditional Foods Fact Sheets from the First Nations Health Authority are a great resource on traditional foods such as moose. They provide nutritional information as well as traditional harvesting and food use. Moose meat is an excellent source of protein and B vitamins (riboflavin and niacin), and a good source of iron. It’s also low in saturated fat compared to modern domestic animals like beef.

I’ll admit that at first, my daughters and I were hesitant to try moose meat because we had not had it before. But after a few meals, we found it hard to go back to beef! Moose meat is a healthy and delicious northern food. I hope you enjoy winter and this great tasting crock pot moose meat spaghetti!

Crock pot moose spaghetti

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 500 g ground moose meat
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1- 28 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1- 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • Other vegetables such as mushrooms or zucchini (optional)
  • 1 package spaghetti or other pasta noodles

Instructions

  1. Fry the ground moose meat in a frying pan with the oil until fully cooked. Put into crock pot.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients except the noodles. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
  3. When you are ready to eat, in separate pot, boil water, add the noodles, and cook as per the package directions. Drain. Serve with the sauce on top.

Serving suggestion:

  • If you like, you can garnish with parmesan cheese and serve with a tossed salad. A dessert such as frozen berries is a nice addition.
Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Orange Shirt Day

Two women dressed in orange

Marking Orange Shirt Day in Kitsumkalum.

I was honoured to be invited to Kitsumkalum’s Orange Shirt Day by Charlene Webb, the community health director. Although I got to wear a beautiful locally designed orange shirt, enjoy yummy orange food, and visit with many people, this event has a sad undertone.

What is Orange Shirt Day?

September 29th is Orange Shirt Day – a day of remembrance and recognition of residential school survivors and those who did not survive.

It is a day each year to acknowledge the harm done by the residential school system to children’s self-esteem and well-being and to remember that every child matters. Orange Shirt Day grew out of Phyllis’ story. In 1973, when she was 6 years old, Phyllis attended the Mission school. On her first day of school, her clothes (including a special, brand new, shiny orange shirt) were taken from her and replaced with a uniform. Orange Shirt Day is an annual opportunity to engage in a discussion on all aspects of the residential school system.

Residential schools

September is when children go back to school and it is therefore timely to remember the Indigenous children in Canada who were taken from their families and travelled long distances to attend residential schools. Instead of being nurtured and supported, many suffered emotional, physical, and sexual abuse there.

Residential schools are a dark part of Canadian history that make me very sad. As a 6th generation Canadian white woman with First Nations children, I have struggled with this part of Canada’s history. I first learned about residential schools when I was pregnant with my first child. I was devastated that such a thing could happen. As a parent, I cannot imagine a more heart wrenching and devastating experience than having my children forcibly removed and taken far away where I cannot protect them or care for them.

Woman wearing "Every Child Matters" shirt

Orange Shirt Day is a day each year to acknowledge the harm done by the residential school system to children’s self-esteem and well-being and to remember that every child matters.

Learning more

As hard as it is, we need to acknowledge that this tragedy occurred and learn more about it so that it never happens again. I encourage you to explore several resources:

Cultural humility

Part of healing from this difficult history in Canada involves all of us developing our cultural humility – our ability to be respectful, self-aware, and lifelong learners when it comes to the experiences of others.

I encourage you to join me and participate in the First Nations Health Authority social media campaign to engage all of us in advancing cultural safety and humility in the health system. In my daily life, I strive to do my part to help create an environment in Northern Health where people feel safe from racism and discrimination. Make a pledge today and share it on social media. Together we can make a difference.

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Foodie Friday: Berry Adventures

buckets of berries in a kayak.I am thankful to live on the beautiful traditional lands of the Tsimshian people. Recently, on a lovely morning when the water was calm and the sun was out, I departed for an adventure in my kayak. Because I went alone, I made sure someone knew where I was, picked a spot that wasn’t too remote, and brought safety supplies along. Part way along my journey, I stopped and picked two buckets of high bush cranberries. Although it was a bit of a juggling act to kayak back without spilling them, it was well worth the effort. I came home and looked through my wild plant books to make sure I had indeed picked cranberries, not some poisonous imposter. There are some excellent books available as well as reputable online sources, like this Edible Berries of BC guide. You can also seek guidance from an experienced picker or an Elder. When you aren’t sure, don’t eat it.

I embarked on the quest of deciding what to do with my berries. While I am quite familiar with making jam, I haven’t made jelly before. Since these cranberries have a significant seed in the centre, I decided to strain them out. I looked up how to do this and began navigating my way. It was trial and error as I was trying to blend the old and the new…recipes without pectin against those with pectin. So I’ll be honest with you, while I haven’t mastered the art of making wild cranberry jelly yet, here is what I learned. This is part of the adventure itself, to experiment and make something delicious! Next time I would just strain the berries and drink the juice!

Gathering berries has been an important activity, food and medicinal source for First Nations and Aboriginal peoples for thousands of years. Cranberries are known for their medicinal benefits, such as anti-bacterial properties that can help prevent urinary tract infections. They are also high in antioxidants that help boost the immune system and they are a source of vitamin C. For more information on traditional foods, access the First Nations Traditional Foods Fact Sheets from the First Nations Health Authority.

The activity of picking berries is good for my mind, body and spirit. Being out in nature is healing for me. When I am having a tough time for one reason or another, being in nature helps to restore me to balance. I also enjoy being self-reliant. Berry picking can also be a family activity. When my children were young it was a great way to get them out and active.

Remember to leave some berries for other people and animals to eat, and be careful not to damage the plants so there can be future harvests.

High Bush Cranberry Jelly

A bowl full of freshly picked berries.Ingredients

  • 2 small buckets of cranberries
  • 4 cups of water
  • 4 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 ¼ boxes of Certo light

Instructions

  1. Boil cranberries with water for 10 minutes.
  2. Make a cheesecloth bag and place inside a strainer inside a bowl. I used elastic bands to hold my cheesecloth in place.
  3. Let the juice drip out overnight. I got about 7 cups of juice. If you have less pour some hot water through the berries to get more. I squeezed my bag, but if you want a clear liquid you aren’t supposed to!
  4. Sterilize the jars and metal lids. I put them in the oven at 225 degrees for 10 minutes.
  5. Put snap lids in water that is hot but not boiling.
  6. Mix Certo with a ¼ cup of sugar. Stir into juice. Bring to a boil. Add rest of sugar and bring to a rolling boil for 1 minute.
  7. Test mixture for the right consistency by putting some on a spoon and letting cool in the fridge. If it firms and then falls off the spoon in one ‘flake’ it’s done, otherwise boil it longer.
  8. Pour into hot jars, wipe rims with a clean cloth dipped in the water the lids are in, put on snap lids and metal lids and tighten.
  9. If the lid pops down, it’s sealed.
  10. Enjoy with turkey on fried bread!
Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Reflections on storytelling & spiritual health

As part of a recent project on healthy aging, I asked Semiguul (Fanny Nelson, Elder from Metlakatla) to share her thoughts on storytelling and spiritual health. She reflected on the importance of both of these ideas and, with National Aboriginal Day just around the corner, I wanted to share her insights with you.

Semiguul (Fanny Nelson, Elder from Metlakatla)

Semiguul (Fanny Nelson, Elder from Metlakatla)

On storytelling:

Story telling, in our culture, is the teaching and passing down of our knowledge. In our culture, the ‘Adaawx’ is our way of teaching the history of our people. The Tsimshian people.

On spiritual health:

Everything we did and were taught was how to pray for everything we take from the Creator. Cedar from the tree, fish from the sea, hide from the deer or moose which we used to make clothing. Whatever we took from the Creator, we gave thanks. We were also taught, only take what you need.

What do storytelling and spiritual health mean to you?

Find a Day of Wellness / National Aboriginal Day event near you.

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Foodie Friday: Salmon and a celebration of Indigenous heritage, cultures, and foods

Canned salmon

Salmon can be prepared and enjoyed in so many ways. It is delicious and nutritious!

Salmon, salmon, salmon … so delicious and nutritious! Canned, fried, baked, dried, smoked, candied, pickled … the possibilities are endless! My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Salmon fishing season is approaching for many people across northern B.C. and my partner has been preparing for weeks. Last weekend he brought home our first spring salmon of the year from the Skeena River.

A fishing net along the Skeena River - where Victoria's partner recently caught his first spring salmon of the year!

A fishing net along the Skeena River – where Victoria’s partner recently caught his first spring salmon of the year!

Not only is salmon so delicious, it’s also very nutritious. It’s high in omega-3 fatty acids that help protect against strokes and heart disease. When eating canned salmon, be sure to mash up the bones as they are a good source of calcium, making our bones and teeth strong. Salmon is an excellent source of vitamin D, which is important in keeping our bones strong as well as protecting us from arthritis and cancer. Salmon meat, skin, head and eggs also provide protein and B vitamins.

Mother and daughter in a selfie

Fishing for salmon can be a family affair! Victoria and her daughter spend quality time together watching her partner fish! Photo by Hannah Litkw Stewart.

Salmon has been a staple food of coastal First Nations since time immemorial. Aboriginal Day is June 21 and is a great opportunity to celebrate Indigenous heritage, cultures, and foods. Some events even include salmon! For example, Saaynangaa Naay-Skidegate Health Centre is hosting Haida games, storytelling and a salmon meal! Gitlaxt’aamiks is hosting a soapberry ice cream contest and fish preparation contests. Check out an Aboriginal Day event in your area, including over 100 Day of Wellness events supported by the First Nations Health Authority! Find an event in your community and come out and celebrate Aboriginal Day!

Want to add salmon to your menu? Baked salmon is a great treat. Here is one of my favorite baked salmon recipes to try:

Dilled Salmon

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 (6 oz) salmon fillets

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine garlic, oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, dill, mustard and syrup.
  3. Place fillets in a medium glass baking dish and cover with the marinade.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes/inch or until cooked through and easily flaked with a fork. Do not overcook.

Enjoy!

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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