“Aboriginal isn't just about what was before, it's what's happening now:” Perspectives of Indigenous peoples on the foods in their contemporary diets
Health promotion materials for Indigenous peoples generally recommend that Indigenous people incorporate more “traditional” foods into their diets, referring to foods that are hunted, fished or gathered from the local environment. Little scholarly attention has focused on which foods Indigenous peoples themselves consider to be traditional, or the socio-cultural significance of their contemporary food patterns. The purpose of this project was to hear the voices of Indigenous peoples about the significance, meanings, and values of foods they eat, and what they consider to be traditional foods. Participants self-identified as Aboriginal people living in or near Terrace, BC were asked to photograph everyday foods, which were then used in semi-structured interviews. Themes identified in preliminary analysis were shared with seven of the original participants in a focus group. Key issues included barriers to access and use of locally gathered foods, and concerns about environmental contaminants in wild food. Participants spontaneously spoke of food in terms of health, but had to be prompted to discuss traditional food. While locally gathered, fished and hunted foods were clearly seen as traditional, the status of other foods was more contested. Case studies of specific foods revealed how participants imagined traditional foods, and also how these were combined with store-bought foods in inventive ways to produce culturally-significant fusion or hybrid foods. Our findings reflect the vibrancy and resilience of Indigenous cultures, and suggest that we reconsider some of the dominant assumptions that inform research and health promotion activities targetting Indigenous peoples.