Happy birthday, Canada, my favourite country in the whole world!
You're getting older, you old girl, but I'm still looking for signs that you're getting wiser on this, your 144th birthday.
For instance, something most Canadians are barely wise to yet - with the exception of one obvious group - are the rich cultures of the aboriginal peoples who lived in this exquisitely varied, lovable, awkward land long before The West was won, the rivers were portaged, the trap lines and rail lines were laid, and Sir John A. and his henchmen sat down in Charlottetown in 1864 to set the wheels in motion for confederation three years later.
Put up your hand if, like me, you still cling to some tattered memory-remnant of Grade 5 social studies where we learned that plains "Indians," as we called them then, pretty much lived on buffalo meat and pemmican, made by drying some buffalo meat mixed with wild berries, and coastal "Indians" lived on salmon and more wild berries. Your hand up? Then this column's for you.
It was inspired by Dawn Morrison, a member of the Secwepemc (Shuswap) First Nation and the BC Food Systems Networking Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty. She spoke at a recent conference on B.C.'s food security, or lack thereof, one more thing we don't seem to be too wise to these days.
Dawn described how resilient First Nations people have always been; her words still ring in my ears: "We weren't hungry in the Great Depression because we knew how to hunt, fish and gather; work hard; have great gardens; and look after each other."
Sounds like a great thing to celebrate to me!
So without further ado, here's a toast - clink! - and a tip of the red and white hat to aboriginal food. Even though we're celebrating our whole nation, there's so much ground to cover, I've kept it to traditional aboriginal food in our little province only because of limited space, not a shortfall of ideas. Just to keep things interesting, I've also flipped Pique 's traditional Canada Day quiz on its head. I provide the answers; can you guess the right questions?
A. How many First Nations are found in B.C.?
B. How many wild fruits and berries were traditionally used on B.C.'s central coast?
C. What's the total number of wild food sources used by some coastal aboriginal peoples?
2. Indian cheese