An Anishinaabe cook is using his indigenous language and knowledge of traditional foods to teach people about culture and healthy eating at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health.
Dan Kimewon, from Saugeen First Nation in southern Ontario, is in Ottawa this weekend to talk Anishinaabemowin (also known as the Ojibway language) with community members, lead cooking classes, and share his experiences of growing up with traditional Anishinaabe teachings about growing and preparing food.
"I'm here to teach about a healthy way of life, and how to cook in a healthy way," said Kimewon, following a lesson with the Wabano diabetes program's community kitchen, where people learn how to make healthy food options to manage diabetes.
He encourages people to move away from diets of processed and fast foods in hopes of curbing high rates of diabetes and obesity among indigenous people.
"We've got so many native people that are sick from this, and we've got to understand that," he said.
Instead, he wants people to embrace more traditional indigenous foods like corn, also known as "mandamin" in Anishinaabemowin. He demonstrates how to prepare corn for soup and other meals in his presentations.
"[Corn] is a way of life of our people," he said. "It never came from overseas. It's from here. We've always had it."
Kimewon's hands-on demonstrations in the kitchen include language lessons, where he labels common kitchen items with words in Anishinaabemowin. For example, "mookmaan" is the word for knife.
Morning and afternoon sessions at Wabano on Saturday are free and open to the public.
Promoting healthy habits
Robyn Manwell, Wabano's dietitian, believes this knowledge is especially important for young people.
"There are so many health issues that are more predominant in aboriginal cultures," she said. "And promoting health from a young age is the best way to create these healthy habits through the rest of their life.
"Having [Kimewon] here to kind of talk about the foods that we're serving, and how they're traditionally staples in an aboriginal diet - we're lucky enough to have him."
Kimewon believes an important first step to healthy living is talking about it, and sharing knowledge to encourage future generations to speak their language and eat traditional foods.
"Our way is being lost so fast, that there's only a few of us that talk about this," he said. "But we need more people to talk about this."