Oki, Tansi, my dear readers:
As you know, I recently had the good fortune to spend a few days in Vancouver and what a trip it was! In addition to enjoying the ocean, the seas, and that fresh salt-air, I was also lucky enough to meet some locals, enjoy some great Canadian Indigenous food at Salmon n’ Bannock, and learn more about the history of the city, particularly about the Eastside. This is a bit of a longer post – but I think you will enjoy it!
The highlight of my trip was getting the opportunity to sit down with one of the owners of Salmon n’ Bannock – a one of a kind restaurant in the city, located on West Broadway, serving traditional Indigenous cuisine in the heart of Vancouver. Salmon n’ Bannock takes traditional Indigenous ingredients from across Canada, and incorporates them into lovely dishes with a modern palate. Before enjoying a HUGE buffalo meat “Indian Taco” (a flat taco like dish on baked bannock with all of the taco fixings) and ending it off with a (shared :P) huckleberry pie and a bannock bread pudding, I tried a eulachon. It was prepared traditionally up in the far North – this small little fish is smoked for 14 hours, and meant to be eaten whole: bones, head and everything! If anyone knows me, you know I’m only really a fan of salmon (I grew up on the prairies, give me a break! :P) but this was so good I would definitely try again! No wonder they call it a delicacy! I think my dad and boyfriend were surprised I actually tried it and enjoyed it! Here’s the meal I had, along with those eulachons, some candied salmon (which was to die for and amazing, I can’t say better things about it!) and the desserts we ordered to share (minus a bite :P). By the way, all of Salmon n’ Bannock’s bannock is baked, not fried, for you health conscious readers wondering:
Sitting down with Inez, 51% owner of Salmon n’ Bannock, she told me a little background about her life and shared with me that she was adopted out of her culture at a young age (unfortunately, such stories can be common in FNMI communities, as this adopting out was once government policy and is still happening today. Here is a good article you can read on that topic, if you are interested). Through opening her business, Inez is not only breaking down cultural barriers between Indigenous and mainstream culture while blazing paths and creating opportunities for other First Nations, Métis and Inuit [FNMI] folks (her staff is all FNMI, and she even had a Blackfoot woman like me working there, from the same tribe!), but Inez has also been revisiting her roots and reconnecting to her culture through this endeavour. This aspect is so important and very respectable especially given that she was taken away from her culture and never fully got the chance to experience it growing up. However, as Inez shows us, it is never too late to reconnect and begin to decolonize through traditional resistance and practicing our cultural ways.
Not only has she created an opportunity for herself to get more in touch with her roots, she has also created opportunities for other Indigenous folks to reconnect to our food culture, as well as an opportunity for cross-cultural learning for non-Indigenous folks. Not to mention, she is giving our FNMI people within the culinary world an outlet and creating economical bases in many First Nations communities through her collaborative approach to her menu items. As someone who enjoys seeking out the traditional cuisine of visited countries, Inez was shocked that there was not such a place in one of the most bustling Canadian cities that catered towards an Indigenous menu for the original inhabitants of Turtle Island; I am so glad that her and her business partner took it upon themselves to share the diverse cuisine of our FNMI communities with the world – I’m sure her many business connections that help build the menus are as well!
I really enjoyed the meal, seeing the friendly FNMI staff and people of all backgrounds and ethnicities enjoying our traditional meals, and of course, Inez’s dedication to her customers. I am very thankful for her sitting down with me and speaking to me; even though she is busy trying to manage a restaurant on the days that she is there and cater to other customers (either her or her business partner are there in body to give customers a more personalized experience, sometimes both), she still took the time to sit with me and give me her full attention, which was very refreshing. I gifted her with a small wreath of sweetgrass from my traditional territory to thank her for speaking with me (which is an important aspect when asking for favours in many FNMI communities).
As a woman who has studied business, it’s always great to see women in business, and even more so, due to my heritage, FNMI women in business. The structure of their business, a 51% ownership share for Inez and 49% for her non-Indigenous business partner Remi, is one way that this duo also shows us how we can build bridges between cultures while also promoting FNMI business ownership. I’m excited to see what the future holds for this business – Inez hopes for a second location, bigger space, and more customers, but is also looking forward to all things the Creator has in store. If you are in the area, make sure to book your reservation today! You won’t regret it – I only regret not going sooner when I’ve had the chance! Great prices, great food, and an overall great atmosphere! Here’s some photos of the meal my parent’s ordered – traditional game meat with all the fixings (looked soo good):
In addition to hanging around West Broadway, I also found myself in the East Van area a lot that weekend. I didn’t really expect to end up in East Vancouver, but maybe things happen for a reason. This area has gotten a bad rap in the public space for many reasons, some related to those reasons that are stealing some of our brothers and sisters from us. However, aside from the less than perfect reputation this side of town has, it has also been the site of many grassroots activism and you can really see the spirit of the neighbourhood in how people look out for each other there.
In the Eastside, I got the opportunity to attend a gathering happening at Shop Wrong with a bunch of up and coming FNMI youth artists blazing paths in their respective fields (drama, film, music) and even got to purchase a cool piece of art there as well that prompted me to learn more about the area. While they are not Aboriginal owned, they do participate in the East Van community very heavily, and also support young budding FNMI artists by hosting free workshops and putting their art on display in their shop for free, in addition to the many other services they provide to the community through their other endeavours. I didn’t even know such a place existed! Here is a blog post that speaks more to that and you can also visit their Facebook page here. After that night, a relative also brought us to visit the memorial for our Missing and Murdered Indigenous (and non-Indigenous!) Women and Men down by the docks (which is an issue I actively speak out against, due to the closeness that it hits home for me from having friends/family who have lost their loved ones due to senseless, colonial, and gendered violence or been subject to such violence themselves). We gave a moment of silence for those that we have lost, and I am thankful to my boyfriend’s cousin for bringing us to see it, as I was unaware there was such a marker. Although this side of town has gotten a bad rap, the stories and the history within that side of the city, in my opinion, show our true humanity – the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, and most importantly, the resiliency of the human spirit:
Now I am back in Calgary, and graduation has come and gone. I’m working on getting my own business established and keeping up the blog with more frequent posts; I’ve been seeking out Aboriginal businesses here in the city this past month along my travels and actually, once you start seeking things out, isn’t it funny how many opportunities come about? It’s been a good month, and I met a lot of artists in the Calgary community, as I finally put myself out there and submitted a piece in an art show. I’m really excited to show you dear readers just how diverse the Aboriginal business world really is! Look out for my next post on FNMI art in Calgary; I’ll be showcasing a few artists that have been in the art business for various years, working with mediums such as acrylics, oils, and more traditional materials/handmade crafts like hides and other useful tools made from animal parts, as per tradition.
Also – please excuse my interchanging with Aboriginal, Indigenous, and FNMI – sometimes I don’t like to use the term Aboriginal as it a colonial, government term so I sometimes use Indigenous in it’s place, or FNMI to be a little clearer of which Indigenous groups I am talking about, as the Indigenous world is very diverse and every country has Indigenous peoples! I still use the term Aboriginal in my posts, as usually people will search Aboriginal business instead of FNMI business or Indigenous business, when searching for FNMI businesses. Thank you for understanding, and sorry if it annoyed anyone. There is a method to my craziness! I’ll leave you now with a picture of my first painting I’ve ever entered into an art show (that wasn’t at my high school lol) – it address business success and structures that have been built upon colonialism; how fitting for my blog though and our next post about art :P! (Ps – it’s for sale, inquire if interested!):
Kitakitamaatsin (until we meet again),