British Columbia

How some Indigenous people are reclaiming Thanksgiving to honour their food and culture

As many Canadians gather this weekend to enjoy a feast with loved ones, some Indigenous households are reclaiming the holiday, and practicing Indigenous Gratitude instead. 

Indigenous gratitude focuses on traditional dishes and the teachings and stories that accompany them

Tasha Tanya Jacko is an Anishinaabe living in Chilliwack, B.C., who is using Thanksgiving as a time to honour her Indigenous culture and teachings. (Gordon Loverin/CBC)

As many Canadians gather this weekend to enjoy a feast with loved ones, some Indigenous households are reclaiming the holiday and practising Indigenous gratitude instead. 

Canadian Thanksgiving started in 1859 when Protestant leaders called on the colonial government to create a day for giving thanks. Historian Peter Stevens says their vision was that people would go to church to "really learn about what they saw as their divine destiny as a nation." 

But their conception of Canada's "greatness" did not include Indigenous people.

Tasha Tanya Jacko, an Anishinaabe woman living in Chilliwack, B.C., is now taking Thanksgiving back, so to speak, by using her weekend feast to honour her culture.

"Indigenous gratitude really is based upon honouring not just our spirit, but honouring our food, honouring our teachings around the food and how it nourishes our body, the creation stories around it and honouring our ancestors' teachings," she told CBC's Gordon Loverin. 

For her weekend meal she made a moose roast, cooked for up to four hours. 

Three sisters soup, containing beans, squash and hominy corn, is of great cultural significance for some Indigenous people. (Gordon Loverin/CBC)

But a highlight, for her, is the three sisters soup — consisting of hominy corn, squash and beans. 

The soup has its origins in a creation story shared by her people. 

"I like to teach it to my children, because our responsibility as a community and parents is to pass down the oral teachings," she said. 

The story, as Jacko tells it, is that the sky woman fell down from the sky and, as she fell, animals on Earth saw her. Sea creatures helped her land on a turtle's back, which Jacko says is now Turtle Island

While on Earth, Jacko says the sky woman became pregnant by the west wind and had twin boys. She passed away during birth and left behind a gift for her sons: corn, beans and squash. 

"In a way, these survival tools are what we use today," Jacko said. 

"Even the way these plants are planted, they all carry each other up, and that's how we carry each other up as Indigenous people."

Some Indigenous people are reclaiming Thanksgiving as a time to share traditional stories and knowledge, which in many cases includes honouring the food and the land from which it came. (Gordon Loverin/CBC)

She said the soup is hearty and filling, both physically and spiritually. Jacko makes fry bread to go with the soup. 

She also makes a wild rice casserole, another dish of great cultural significance. 

She said ancestors would travel by birch bark canoes and tap on long grass in the water with sticks to harvest wild rice in September and October each year. 

"I have not been fortunate [to have] the chance to do that, but [it] is on my to-do list is to harvest wild rice because it is so delicious," Jacko said.

To hear more about Indigenous gratitude, click here: 

With files from Gordon Loverin and Cross Country Checkup