Indigenous

Kahnawake woman starts shop for Indigenous-sourced food from near and far

A Kanien’kehá:ka woman's new business aims to be a hub for people looking to buy traditional and contemporary Indigenous foods while nurturing nation-to-nation trade.

All products are from Indigenous-run food companies, says Kahtehrón:ni Stacey

Eugene Jacobs and Kahtehrón:ni Iris Stacey with braids of Haudenosaunee blue corn and snuff nose white corn. Her new business sells food that she grows and harvests. (Konwahonwá:wi Stacey)

A Kanien'kehá:ka woman's new business aims to be a hub for people looking to buy traditional and contemporary Indigenous foods while nurturing nation-to-nation trade.

"Our goal is to help our community and to have more of an option, so our food could be more accessible," said Kahtehrón:ni Stacey. 

Stacey is Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) from Kahnawake, Que., and is launching a family-owned, Indigenous-sourced food company called Kaienthókwen, which translates to "the harvest."

Along with her family, she has been producing and harvesting traditional foods like corn, squash and pumpkin.

Last week, the business began selling on Facebook some of the products that she produces and harvests locally, as well as food products sourced from other Indigenous nations.

"It's just highlighting first and foremost, our food, but also a lot of people and nations who are providing more contemporary or old foods," said Stacey.

That includes items like wild rice pancake mix and wild blueberry syrup from Red Lake Nation Foods, Inuit herbal teas from Northern Delights and frybread and blue corn muffin mix from Navajo Nation company Flavors of the Hogan.

Stacey said she has spent a lot of time researching Indigenous food companies and wants to ensure that everything that will be sold on her soon-to-be-developed website will come from Indigenous vendors.

Ensuring products are Indigenous-sourced

"One of the successes is just finding these different vendors that are highlighting their traditional and non-traditional foods," said Stacey. 

"It's such a challenge to locate people and companies that are Indigenous-run, Indigenous-sourced, Indigenous-gathered or -produced food."

She said there are many non-Indigenous businesses marketing their products as Indigenous. 

"It's a form of cultural appropriation," said Stacey. 

 "You might see a fancy box with Indigenous designs and artwork, but when you dig a little deeper, it's not Indigenous owned. It could be really misleading sometimes for consumers who are looking for Indigenous products and food because people want to support them. So they have to really take caution, especially ordering online."

With the products that she is selling, she is confident they are from Indigenous people.

"I think what's important is also nation-to-nation trade, that has always been part of our way," said Stacey.

Priscilla Settee is a member of Cumberland House Cree Nation and a professor of Indigenous Studies at the University of Saskatchewan. She is the co-author of the book Indigenous Food Systems. (University of Saskatchewan)

Priscilla Settee, an Indigenous studies professor at the University of Saskatchewan, said people "need to be intentional about where we buy our foods."

Settee has been studying Indigenous Food Sovereignty since the mid-'70s and has been teaching courses about it for over 10 years.

"[Indigenous food sovereignty] is having good food that's culturally appropriate and having control and production of those foods so that you are in control of the production of distribution," said Settee.

With Stacey's new business venture, she is hoping Indigenous nations start doing more business with each other.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1

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