Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

Edmonton chef Scott Iserhoff has not always felt in conflict with Thanksgiving.

Like many Canadians, the holiday meant gathering with the family and a turkey feast with accessories. But as Iserhoff grew older, the founder of an Edmonton-based culinary business focused on original food became more aware of the history of the holiday.

It became increasingly difficult to ignore the colonial undertones of the holiday: stories of the first pilgrims met by indigenous peoples with dinner and help to survive – but also the stories of celebrating the subsequent slaughter of indigenous peoples and landing, he said.

“I think now is the time to take it back,” Iserhoff said.

Iserhoff’s business, Pei Pei Chei Ow, allows guests to learn more about modern original food while also tasting bannock, stews and other dishes.

“Everything that’s included in Thanksgiving is all native food,” Iserhoff said. “You got the squash, you got the tubers, the potatoes, the mashed potatoes, the turkey, the corn … they were here before settlers came, and that was our food source.”

Food permit

Thanksgiving and celebrating the harvest and changing seasons are also part of the indigenous cultures, he said.

But original contributions to Thanksgiving traditions today are largely ignored, Iserhoff said.

“When exploring food, there’s a lot of appropriation for food, and it overlooks a lot of people and makes it get inspired,” he said.

Critics are challenging magazines that publish features about Thanksgiving dinner without representing original chefs, Iserhoff said. “They call them out and I think it’s time to do it. If there were more chefs doing it, we could see a change in the narrative eventually.”

Jacqueline Romanow, President of Indigenous Studies at the University of Winnipeg. (CBC)

It is common for young natives to feel some discomfort with Thanksgiving, said Jacqueline Romanow, a Red River Métis and associate professor of native studies at the University of Winnipeg.

“It supports the myth that this country was discovered. It creates this idea that the indigenous peoples here simply left everything to the new kind of arrivals, that there was no conflict, that it was a very peaceful and happy encounter. Which, in fact, is the exact opposite of what happened, ”she said.

“Over half of the children in care are native children. They are not going to enjoy those parties. I think you could say it’s like rubbing salt in the wound.”

Like Iserhoff, Romanow believes Thanksgiving should be recycled.

“Native culture is so strong and powerful, and that we as natives, instead of just rejecting this kind of colonial thought about Thanksgiving, have our own things to be grateful for, including our culture, our children, our families,” Romanow said.

“And it’s clear that partying is really important. Sharing food is pretty fundamental to the relationship in indigenous communities, and it will continue to be so.”

Indigenous people’s day

Like the growing movement in the United States to replace Columbus Day – which happens to fall on Canada’s Thanksgiving Day – with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Romanow believes that Thanksgiving should also be a time to recognize the first peoples.

On Friday, US President Joe Biden issued the first presidential proclamation on “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”, the most significant boost to date in efforts to restructure the federal holiday.

In Canada, September 30 marked its first national day of truth and reconciliation, an annual memorial service for the children who died while attending boarding schools and those still affected by the legacy of the system.

But Romanow said residential schools are only a small part of what has happened to indigenous peoples in Canada.

“I think if the Canadian government is really sincere about changing the relationship with native Canadians, it would be a start that it’s not just Thanksgiving … thanking indigenous people and honestly acknowledging them as one of the three founding nations of this country. ”

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