Food Stories: A Labrador Inuit-Metis Community Speaks about Global Change
Martin, Debbie Holly
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Background: Food nourishes us, sustains us, and has the potential to both heal us and make us sick. Among many Indigenous cultures, traditional activities, ceremonies, events and practices often involve or use food, grounding Indigenous peoples within the context of their local, natural surroundings. This suggests that food is important not only for physical health, but also emotional, mental and spiritual health. The relationships that Indigenous peoples have with food can help us to understand the health of individuals, and the communities in which they live. Purpose: The following qualitative study explores how three generations of adults who live in one Labrador Inuit-Metis community experience and understand their relationships to food in a context of global change. Theoretical Orientation: The research is guided by Two-Eyed Seeing. Two-Eyed Seeing acknowledges that there are many different ways of seeing and understanding the world, some of which can be encompassed through a ‘Western eye’ and some through an ‘Indigenous eye.’ If we learn to see through both eyes, we can gain a perspective that looks very different than if we only view the world through a single lens. Methods: For the study, twenty-four people from the south-eastern Labrador community of St. Lewis participated in individual and joint story-telling sessions. A group story-telling session also took place where community members could share their stories with one another. During many of the story-telling sessions, participants shared photographs, which helped to illustrate their relationships to food. Findings/Discussion: Historically, the people of St. Lewis relied almost entirely upon their own wherewithal for food, with few, if any, government services available and very little assistance from the market economy. This fostered and upheld an Inuit-Metis culture that promoted sharing, reciprocity and respect for the natural world. Currently, greater access to government services and the market economy has led to the creation of certain policies and programs that undermine or ignore established social and cultural norms in the community. Conclusions: Existing Inuit-Metis knowledge should work alongside non-Indigenous approaches to policy and program development. This would serve to protect and promote the health of both individuals and communities.