A Perfect Fit: Promoting Wellness with Haida Foods

by Jaskwaan —

Held at the Tluu Xaadaa Naay in Gaw during the evening of May 2, 2016, the Wellness Dinner and launch of the Halaa Ga Taa cookbook was a mix of delectable food and enjoyable entertainment, with all proceeds benefiting the Wellness Warriors Activity Fund.

Well attended with an abundance of dishes featured in the Halaa Ga Taa cookbook, the evening’s success was due to the many volunteers, cooks and outpouring of community support. In addition to the exceptional buffet style dinner, attendees were graced with storytelling by Kung Jaadee Roberta Kennedy, and songs by SGaalanglaay, Vern Williams Jr,  Nang K’idaa Leegas Jordan Seward, and Jaskwaan.

The idea for a cookbook and dinner came out of the Haida Owned and Operated course, which develops skills to enable citizens to start their own businesses. In this exercise participants were assigned to groups and tasked with raising money with a focus on the three “Cs” – Cash, Community, and Culture. Four groups were given $1000 each to hold an event.

Group members Jana McCleod, Ileah Mattice, Kuuyang Lisa White, Guulee Cynthia Samuels, and Sean Yeltatzie, decided to make a cookbook promoting local foods. “We wanted to promote awareness of what we put into our bodies, and what we put into our foods,” said Kuuyang.

The group had a choice, keep the profits or donate them to an organization or group. Kuuyang explained that their group decided to give the money to the Wellness Warriors Activity Fund. The Wellness Warriors, a collaborative program run through the Haida Health Centre, Haida Gwaii Society for Community Peace, and Northern Health, is about removing the stigma of addiction and promoting compassion.

Jen Chow , Dan Binnima, and Melissa Tyler, Mental Health and Addiction Services Clinicians, facilitate the Wellness Warriors program, which has serviced Gaw for 5 years. Christopher Collison, a Wellness Warrior, addressed the packed longhouse and described the program in detail.

Kuuyang said the Wellness Warriors program is “nonjudgmental, focusing on healthy activities, and they offer a meal once a week rain or shine [5:00 pm every Tuesday]. They do dishes together, go berry picking, and so on. Our [Haida Owned and Operated] group recognizes the big struggle in our community with addictions, and the importance to highlight and talk about and become educated in these issues.” Guulee added, “The Wellness Warriors had applied for funding and were not approved, so we thought it would be a good thing to do [to donate the profit from sales to them.] It was a perfect fit.” The group, after paying back the course, made over $700 for the Wellness Warriors.  Jen Chow expressed appreciation, noting that “it’s a great treat to have some funds to be able to improve our programming, provide honoraria to guest speakers and presenters, and purchase some much needed supplies.”

The Halaa Ga Taa cookbook includes over 30 recipes and features photos on the cover and throughout the book of T’aalang Stl’ang, home of the Haida Gwaii Rediscovery Program by camp cook, Cakes Baker.

Both Kuuyaang and Guulee emphasize the importance of promoting the environment through Haida Gwaii foods, especially since, as Guulee noted, “industry is bearing down on us at an accelerated pace.” Halaa Ga Taa does an excellent job showcasing what Haida Gwaii has to offer: Gaan ‘waadluwaan berries of all kinds, k’aad deer, Xagu halibut, tsiin salmon, and k’yuu clams, featured in delicious recipes that guests of the dinner had a chance to sample.

Although the cookbook is sold out, Aaliiyah Mattice is taking orders and there may be another order soon.

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