Time and time again, we have been shown how food can be used for good — from raising money to fight anti-Asian racism to honouring the history of racialized trans people. And now, it is here to help heal.
Last week, the remains of 215 children were found in Kamloops at the site of Canada’s largest residential school via a ground-penetrating radar survey. Some of the remains belonged to children as young as three. There have been many gestures of solidarity across the country, including from a group of Indigenous chefs.
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“It’s really, really saddening to see something like this,” says Paul Natrall, a BC-based chef and owner of Mr. Bannock Indigenous Cuisine. “I have a very big, young family. I just couldn’t imagine something like that happening to any of my kids… it’s close to home. My grandfather was in residential schools, my grandmother too.”
Paul’s old instructor Ben Genaille got in touch over the weekend and came up with an idea to go cook for the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation to support their community. “I was like ‘yeah, let’s do it,’ and with my connections in the Indigenous culinary world, we got a bunch of things together and just trying hard to make it all gel together and go up to Merritt and Kamloops,” Paul said this morning on a call before he took the three-hour drive to BC’s Interior.
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Approximately eight chefs will be volunteering their time to cook for four days, from June 1 to 4. They’re hoping to serve 250 people a day, for a total of 1,000 meals served. On the menu? Bison, deer, bannock tacos, potato salad, bacon and corn soup with squash and beans, as well as candied salmon and 20 pounds of regular salmon.
There have been calls for action to investigate all former residential schools sites. “I’m pretty sure all our other communities will need the same kind of assistance that we’re doing here,” Paul said.
To learn more and/or to donate, check out the Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations (both Paul and Food Network Canada’s Christa Bruneau-Guenther from Wall of Chefs are on the board of directors), as well as the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.