Today Indian Food: Perspectives of Aboriginal Peoples on the Foods in their Contemporary Diets
MetadataShow full item record
Much of the academic literature and many health promotion materials related to Aboriginal peoples and food reflect and propagate a problematic view of authentic Aboriginal cultures: that they are frozen in time and are in need of protection. This prevailing view ignores the reality that all cultures, and their cuisines, evolve and adapt through creativity and resilience. Most food research focusing on Aboriginal peoples centers around narrowly defined “traditional foods,” and little attention has been paid to what they themselves consider to be “traditional foods,” or the socio-cultural significance of contemporary food patterns. Because others have often paternalistically assumed to know what is in their best interests, Aboriginal peoples’ perspectives have seldomly been heard on such matters. The purpose of this project was to hear the voices of Aboriginal peoples about the meanings and values of foods in their contemporary diets. Participants, who self-identified as being Aboriginal persons, living in or near Terrace, British Columbia, were asked to take pictures of everyday foods, which were used in open-ended, semi-structured, photo-elucidated interviews. Themes identified in preliminary analysis were further discussed in a group interview. Analysis of these interviews showed support for some key issues documented in the academic literature, such as barriers that exist in accessing and using locally gathered foods. However, particiants also contested some of the assumptions implicit in research and health promotion materials, such as the dichotomization of gathered foods as “healthy” and store-bought foods as “unhealthy.” Analysis showed that the meanings participants ascribe to food are context dependant; for example, different partcipants might consider a particular food a luxury, staple or “poor food,” depending on their backgrounds. Analysis also revealed that there are debates about what foods are considered to be “traditional.” The findings of this research urge us to reconsider some of the assumptions that inform research and health promotion activities targetting Aboriginal peoples.