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National Indigenous Peoples’ Day inspires new menu at LHSC

Developing a menu to mark National Indigenous Peoples' Day at LHSC involved collaboration among groups and individuals. Emily Passfield / Global News

June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and the London Health Sciences Centre is celebrating by creating a traditional Indigenous menu for the cafeteria and hosting a music and dance ceremony.

LHSC partnered with Chippewas of the Thames and Compass One Healthcare to create a new lunch that features traditional Indigenous foods. The menu was unveiled following a ceremony with a speech from Elder Mike Hopkins and several performances from local dancers.

“It was an opportunity to share the rich history and share the traditions and the dances that have lived on for many generations in our communities,” says Chantel Antone, senior director at the office of Indigenous health with LHSC.

“I’ll say it was a monumental moment in history where we haven’t been before: having the dancers come in, having a culinary group to create the menu, having an Indigenous chef and all-Indigenous group to be here.”

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A theme of strawberries was also present in both the ceremony and the food, as it further ties Indigenous culture to Indigenous food knowledge. Strawberries signify the month of June and speak to the importance of how Indigenous foods help to understand timing in the season.

Several steps were taken in the creation of the menu and bringing it to LHSC, starting with the Compass Group reaching out to LHSC asking how to include Indigenous foods on the menu. LHSC then connected with Marley Fisher, the community dietician with Chippewas of the Thames.

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“As we talked about this, I feel like it became a bigger thing,” Fisher says. “I couldn’t be the one person to decide what was on the menu for today, so I reached out to some community partners and thought ‘who else is interested in this and what are your thoughts?’ to gather some perspective.”

A community culinary Indigenous group was formed through the collaboration. It now provides feedback and ideas for future Indigenous-based food options. The menu for the event was carefully curated to what the community may enjoy while also making sure the event is not just a checkbox on a list for reconciliation. In addition, all meals were prepared by an Indigenous chef.

Strawberry cookies and drink on a table with herbs and beans with the menu in the back. Emily Passfield / Global News

“This is the first step in many, but today’s the debut of something bigger,” Fisher says. “In future you will hopefully be able to have Indigenous foods on a regular rotation in the cafeteria and on the menu for grab-and-go items and maybe on the grill side to purchase hot foods.”

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The proceeds from National Indigenous Peoples’ Day food sales will go towards funding an Indigenous culinary student at Fanshawe College. The student to selected will be someone who demonstrates a strong commitment to Indigenous food sovereignty and who is interested in exploring cultural cuisine.

“It’s important to be represented in the hospital because historically it hasn’t been a safe place or a place of belonging for many Indigenous people and still isn’t fully that way today,” Fisher says. “I think these types of steps help families, staff and patients know they’re being celebrated.”

Some of the dishes served at the event were bison burgers with a three sister’s salad, traditional corn soup and a traditional strawberry drink.

Corn soup, a bison burger and a traditional strawberry drink. Emily Passfield / 980CFPL

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