What started as a food collective in 2020 has now grown into a local phenomenon: Dashmaawaan Bemaadzinjin is an Indigenous-led food market aimed at educating people on Indigenous culture while also raising funds to support their community programs. Led by Laurie Hermiston, this energetic “group of Aunties” is here to shake up the Toronto food scene.
Laurie explains that “Dashmaawaan Bemaadzinjin is an Ojibwe word that translates to: They feed the people” and “part of the goal is to honour what food looks like in Toronto.” She goes on to say that “it’s about the diversity of all these nations that come here and have inspired so much of what the Toronto culinary scene is.”
We had the opportunity to try a vast array of freshly made dishes at the market, from bison smash burgers to a delicious berry and whipped cream bannock. Laurie mentions that a part of integrating other cultures ingredients into the menu is recognizing what’s trendy in the city – “We look at what’s popular, what people gravitate towards.” And if you’re a fan of game meat, you’re in luck – the rotating menu consistently features it: “Game meats are very hard to find in the city and in general” says Laurie. “It’s exciting to have the opportunity to show people a wide variety of flavour profiles – people want elk, bison and venison”.
The Dashmaawaan team works hard to ensure that majority of the ingredients used are traditionally Indigenous. One of their favourites is FORBES wild foods – a food supply store that specifically sells harvested and foraged foods. Located on the Danforth in Toronto, FORBES has been around since the ’90s and offers everything from wild ramps to choke cherries. “Where we can we use Indigenous suppliers, we do,” says Laurie. “There is a cultural and spiritual element when we’re able to support other members in our community.”
Related: Three Simple Ways to Cook Bannock
With the growing popularity of Indigenous cuisine in Canada, it’s no surprise the Dashmaawaan team is constantly busy with new visitors every week. “There’s so much to be inspired by when we’re fusing our culture with other cultures” Laurie notes. “Every time someone comes to visit, it’s an opportunity to educate and share what we love about what we do.”
Laurie’s team is comprised of members from various Indigenous communities including Ojibwe, Blackfoot, Dene, Metis, Cree and Mohawk. The idea is to have as much representation as possible from surrounding territories. The team takes inspiration from the great work done by other Indigenous creators across Canada like artist Paul Owl, winemaker Justin Hall, and Pow Wow Cafe owner Shawn Adler to name a few. These are just a handful of the many leaders paving the way for more visibility on Indigenous food culture.
Up until their final market on October 8, Dashmaawaan Bemaadzinjin will also be hosting various events such as community Pow Wows and an Indigenous drag show on September 21. The drag show will consist of performances from local queens while also hosting educational sessions for kids in attendance.
The last market of the season will occur on the “October Moon” (it’s on the same weekend as Thanksgiving). As Laurie puts it, “it’s a time to wind down before the winter and prepare for the colder months.” The winter months are typically for storytelling and time with family. Before the settlers arrived, Indigenous communities foraged and hunted in the spring and summer months to prepare for the long winters. Indigenous people were never farmers – farming was introduced by the settlers as a way to manage Indigenous life and prevent movement. “Part of hosting the final market this weekend is a way to decolonize Thanksgiving and to teach people about who we are and how we celebrate,” says Laurie.
Related: Collection of First Nations Recipes
Dashmaawaan Bemaadzinjin is on every week at Fork York in Toronto until October 8, with alternating menus each week.
Special thanks to the team at Dashmaawaan Bemaadzinjin: Laurie Hermiston, Anna Dobie, Natasha Halovitch, Cedar Smoke, Ahmed Tania, Keshaun Halovitch, Ninah Hermiston, and Kay Nadijiwon.