Chefs help tell the Making Treaty 7 story through Indigenous cuisine

Making Treaty 7 was back this week with performances at the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino.

Project was the vision of the late Michael Green, co-founder of the One Yellow Rabbit theatre company

Chefs Jamie Harling of the Deane House, left, and Bill Alexander of Grey Eagle Casino at a gala event for Making Treaty 7. (Julie van Rosendaal)

Making Treaty 7 was back this week with performances at the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino.

The groundbreaking theatrical storytelling of the events of the signing of Treaty 7 at Blackfoot Crossing in 1877 — one of a family of numbered treaties signed between Canada's First Nations and Queen Victoria — incorporates a cast of over 20 First Nations and non-Aboriginal performers, musicians, dancers, poets and elders who composed each line, action and gesture of their 90 minutes on stage to tell the story of the consequences and implications of the treaty 139 years later.

The project was the vision of the late Michael Green, who was given the Blackfoot name Elk Shadow/Pona Ko'Taksi and was co-founder of the One Yellow Rabbit theatre company, and First Nations elder and filmmaker Narcisse Blood (Middle Bull/Tatsikiistamik), who became the cultural and spiritual advisor to Making Treaty 7.

Both were killed in a car accident in early 2015.

On Thursday evening a special inaugural gala event had chefs Jamie Harling of the Deane House, River Cafe's Matthias Fong and Grey Eagle chef Bill Alexander prepare a meal using local and Indigenous ingredients, many of them foraged from the Tsuut'ina First Nation.

Every nation was represented at the dinner, an opportunity to learn more about this part of our collective history through performance art and music, as well as food.

Appetizers served at a gala event to celebrate Making Treaty 7. (Julie van Rosendaal)

"There are 175 different species of mushroom on Tsuut'ina land," says chef Alexander.

An ink cap mushroom, which transforms into edible ink as it decomposes, was used to make aioli served with elk carpaccio, saskatoon berries and bannock.

Wild rice cabbage rolls were topped with wild garlic aioli, and family-style platters of smoked trout with foraged Tsuut'ina nation wild horseradish, bison hump stew and roasted pumpkin risotto were served to guests who were encouraged to get to know those they were sharing their meal with.

There were maple glazed carrots with pemmican — a mixture of dried meat and fat, traditionally bison, and often saskatoon berries — duck tempura, salt-baked beets with wild rice crisps and hazelnut butter, whole roasted cauliflower and saskatoon and crabapple cider. 

(They did have to source some of the crabapple juice elsewhere, as a beaver — or beavers — chewed down two crabapple trees outside the Deane House last weekend.)

A risotto and a cauliflower appetizer served at a Making Treaty 7 gala event. (Julie van Rosendaal)

They hope to continue to carry on the narrative with other food-related events connected to the Making of Treaty 7 at River Cafe and the Deane House, both of which are known for their use of Indigenous ingredients and for incorporating an educational component, sharing knowledge and ideas with Calgarians as well as on the international culinary stage.

The Making Treaty 7 Cultural Society intends to take the show on the road, and plans for the Making Treaty 7 Festival, which incorporates music, dance, colour, flavour, tradition and ceremony to help define our collective sense of place — are well underway for Canada's 150th birthday in 2017.


Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.