Otahpiaaki Fashion Week seeks Indigenous recipes for Instagram collection

Artists and models will have lots inspiration for snacks and dinners to keep their energy up for this fall's Otahpiaaki Fashion Week in Calgary.

Favourite takes on bannock, pemmican and berry upside-down cake collected so far

Bannock bakes in pans over an open fire during Flavours of the North on Parliament HIll in 2017. Recipes for bannock and other Indigenous dishes are being requested by the organizers of Otahpiaaki Fashion Week in Calgary. (Leah Hansen/CBC)

Artists and models will have lots inspiration for snacks and dinners to keep up their energy for this fall's Otahpiaaki Fashion Week in Calgary.

The organizers of the Mount Royal University event are collecting favourite Indigenous recipes. 

They're planning on making the dishes, which may be served to workshop attendees. They're also launching an Instagram account to detail each recipe, a photo of each dish and the story behind it.

"I was really excited about it because with First Nations people, it's all about sharing," event elder advisor Jeannie Smith Davis told the Calgary Eyeopener. "For Indigenous people, since time immemorial, one of our biggest values is sharing, generosity and sharing.

"And when the first Europeans came, that's why they survived: because the First Nations people shared their knowledge."

Bannock, pemmican and cake

Organizer Patti Derbyshire says they've already received a variety of recipes, including several for bannock and pemmican, as well as a Saskatoon berry upside-down cake. Smith-Davis has provided her recipes for Saskatoon berry soup and pemmican at the end of this article.

Beyond making recipe-seekers hungry, Derbyshire hopes the recipes also encourage everyone to pay attention to nutrition and the cultural side of food making.

"Beauty is understood to be a very deep beauty that's physical, that's intellectual, that's spiritual and that's cultural and so this becomes very much a part of that physical well-being," Derbyshire said.

"Saskatoon berries, in particular, are incredibly, incredibly nutritious — and so always having this snack around is really important."

Pemmican, Smith Davis noted, has long been a staple food for Blackfoot people. A mix of protein and fat, and occasionally berries, it's nutritious and energy-boosting. It can also be kept a very long time.

"Now, if you put it in a freezer, it can last up to 20 years," she said.

If you'd like to submit a favourite recipe, you can email or go to

Jeannie Smith-Davis recommends her Saskatoon berry soup. (Jeannie Smith-Davis)

The fashion week runs Nov. 5-10 and includes fashion demonstrations from Indigenous designers. There also will be workshops that will soon be announced. Last year, those included earring beading, birch bark rose making and ribbon skirt designing.

The event will be bringing back its collaborative red dress project that involves people making flowers to add to the dress. Each signifies a missing or murdered Indigenous woman.

The theme of this year's fashion week is pride and protest to honour two-spirited Indigenous people and how Indigenous people were the "first environmentalists," Smith Davis said. Many of the designers invited this year fit that theme.

She and Derbyshire see the recipe project as a way to include people who live far from Calgary but may want to get involved in the event.

Here are Smith Davis's recipes:


Smith-Davis says it's important to always cook while in good spirits. She says that when you're angry, the anger can transcend to the people eating what you make. 

Use a pound of dried Saskatoon berries or chokecherries or a mixture of both. Also use a pound of dried venison or beef or bison. Crush this.

Add rendered fat, enough to saturate the mixture.

Roll into cookie sized patties. Let set for a bit.

Eat or freeze the patties for later use. Put mint in to preserve. Store in a flour sack, not in plastic.

Saskatoon berry soup

Smith-Davis says that whenever you gather food, give something in return, like burying a Saskatoon berry so more will grow.

Mix two pounds of Saskatoon berries and 10 cups of water.

Turn burner on and barely bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat and continue stirring for a couple of hours. This allows for the sweetness of the berries to come out. They also say if you boil the soup or microwave it, you take the spirit out of the dish.

Taste for sweetness then add a ¼ cup of flour mixed with a cup of water. Slowly blend into the soup.

Stir constantly and turn off the heat. Continue stirring until cool. When it has cooled, it's ready to eat.

​With files from Tahirih Foroozan, Elizabeth Withey and the Calgary Eyeopener.