Salmon, a Syilux traditional food, restored as part of food sovereignty impact

by Laura Mushumanski

(ANNews) – Before our beloved unleavened deliciously fried bread, bannock, appeared on the scene and won our hearts over, our ancestors ate a diet rich in vitamins and minerals. Because of the nutrient dense traditional diet our ancestors ate, they literally could keep up with the Buffalo, never mind nowadays where it can feel like a chore to get up and walk to our indoor icebox.

A study, Traditional Food, Health and Diet Quality in Syilx Okanagan Adult, conducted by researchers from the University of Alberta examined the dietary habits in over 200 Syilx people. The Okanagan Salmon and Our Health group of researchers assisted with measuring effects of eating traditional foods and the quality of the Syilx people’s diet. The research conducted showed positive findings with eating an incorporated traditional diet from foods such as salmon, moose and berries.

A team of nutritionists, researchers and members of the Okanagan Nation Alliance collaborated by using their knowledge and expertise to contribute their assessments on the impact of salmon restoration in the Okanagan waters.

Within the Syilx region, there was a lack of research on the physical impacts of traditional Indigenous foods being consumed.

The sense of identity for the Syilux people, and the importance of cultural preservation was proved within the study, as being able to access and incorporate traditionals foods that go beyond an Indigenous person’s physical health- their livelihood.

The success of the study has largely contributed to the restoration of traditional food sources, and securing access for the improvement of food sovereignty. And because culture is a huge part of  the Syilux people within the Okanagan region, they hold themselves responsible for being stewards of the land, having an unique set of skills to preserve hunting, harvesting and fishing traditions, and creating an availability of traditional food resources for future generations.

Historically, our Syilux brothers and sisters ate a better quality diet with a lower energy intake from ultra processed foods, compared to present day diets within most Indigenous communities that mainly consist of ultra processed foods because of a lack of food resources and disinheriting cultural traditions.

From the results of the study, it showed Syilux people that were traditional foods consumers had higher levels of essential vitamins and minerals, less calories being consumed from ultra processed foods and their diets were well balanced in accordance with the Canadian Food Guide.

From our inherent knowledge of preserving the land, it is a large contributing factor to consuming traditional foods. When we are taking care of the land, we are returning to the land, honoring it, and respecting it the way that our bright and vibrant culture has taught us, and in turn benefits everyone that accesses the land and greatly impacts quality of life.

The Indigenous-led initiative is another success story in revitalizing traditional diets for Indigenous people within their communities. Although the impacts of colonization have drastically changed our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health, Indigenous initiatives have impacted the way Indigenous communities can restore and nurture the land, communities and culture.

Laura Mushumanski is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter for Alberta Native News.

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