Sunday October 08, 2017

Indigenous cuisine reconnected a Sixties Scoop survivor with family, community and culture

Inez Cook stands in her Vancouver restaurant, Salmon n' Bannock Bistro.

Inez Cook stands in her Vancouver restaurant, Salmon n' Bannock Bistro. (Erica Daniels/CBC)

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From bannock burgers, to gourmet salmon dishes, Salmon n' Bannock Bistro speaks volumes about co-owner Inez Cook's Indigenous heritage. The Vancouver restaurant is decorated with West Coast artwork, and a large painted canoe hangs from the ceiling. 

But for Cook, Salmon n' Bannock is about more than just great food. This is the place that reunited her with the family she never knew. 

Inez Cook

Inez Cook the day she was taken from her family as part of the Sixties Scoop. (Supplied by Inez Cook)

As a survivor of the Sixties Scoop, Cook didn't have the opportunity to grow up in her own community of Bella Coola, B.C. But after Salmon n' Bannock opened its doors, it didn't take long for word to get out about a Nuxalk-owned restaurant.

"It was written everywhere that a Nuxalk person had opened this restaurant, but the Nuxalk community didn't know me because I was adopted out. So, they thought that it maybe wasn't necessarily true," she said. "They started to send Nuxalk people in just to check it out."

She explained that, at first, people from the community doubted her heritage and asked her a lot of questions. She recalled one woman and her "firing squad" of questions. "I answered what I knew. Then I had gone to get her her tea, and when I came back, she was on the phone. She hung up the phone and she stood up with her arms extended. She said, 'Let me be the first to welcome you home. We're family.'" 

Salmon n' Bannock dish

One of many dishes served at the Salmon n' Bannock Bistro. (Salmon n' Bannock Bistro )

When she was just one-year-old, Cook was taken from her community and adopted. During the Sixties Scoop, many Indigenous children and babies were taken from their families.

While Cook acknowledged she was lucky to be placed in a loving home, she is thankful that her restaurant helped her reconnect with the family, community and culture that was missing for so much of her life.