My story is like many busy Canadian working professionals. While I was building up my new business and juggling long hours, my eating patterns took a nosedive. I consumed convenient fast junk food to meet deadlines and it became the norm. Rolls started to appear on my body and I felt worn out more often. I hardly exercised. Sadness overcame me. On my yearly visit to the doctor he gave me a big “D” for diabetes. I was told if I continued to eat poorly and not exercise, I could get diabetes. My poorly planned meals, were also affecting my mental health. My usual perky spark for life felt dim. My spirited was low because of the weight gain. The thought of me going down because of diabetes frazzled me.
I tossed away the candy wrappers and started my quest towards good health.
Feeling motivated to reverse the curse I met with friends, farmers and local food growers. We shared delicious fresh meals over kitchen tables and food became the star of our conversations. Laughter and scrumptious visits lasted hours. My health was improving. I was getting out of the house to meet people with fresh food and good advice. It was the food and friendships that made it so easy to change the way I was eating. The sensation of wild and organic foods was reintroduced to my diet and lifestyle. My body was longing for this kind of energy shift; it had been a very long time since I felt so good about everything. I planned for more outings with family matriarchs to our Indigenous berry picking and root digging sites. Meeting my neighbors’ throughout the valley became entirely fun. We chatted, shared recipes stories while digging into the dirt of their gorgeous organic gardens. This evoked better eating habits within me and extended family. We talked about diabetes prevention at family potlucks. Sugar and salty foods became less important to my diet and my food portions started to shrink. The energy was electric. I felt good. What a breakthrough! Preventing diabetes was becoming a reality.
OUR FIRST FOODS
The oral story of the “Four Food Chiefs” is called “chaptikwl” in the Okanagan language. The “chaptikwl” are the creation stories of Syilx culture. Chaptikwl stories are the cornerstone to the Sylix reviving thousands of years of traditional knowledge systems. I am utterly grateful for our bountiful lands that bear these nutritious wild foods and for these stories and the knowledge they bring the Syilx.
The (4) Four Food Chiefs of Syilx people are:
Chief Skemxist (Black Bear)
Chief Siya (Saskatoon Berry)
Chief Spitlem (Bitter Root)
Chief Ntyxtix (King Salmon)
Skemxist (Black Bear) represents meat foods that contain protein.
I learned that our body needs proteins so that it can build and repair tissues. Proteins also make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Proteins are like bricks in that they are literally the building blocks of bone, muscle, cartilage, skin, and blood.
Deer meat is low in Sodium. It’s also good source of Vitamin B6, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Zinc and Phosphorus. Vitamin B6 helps the body make neurotransmitters which carry signals from one nerve cell to another. It is needed for normal brain development and function, and helps the body make the hormones which influence our moods and regulate our body. The B vitamins are coenzymes - molecules that combine with an inactive protein to make it an active enzyme. The B vitamins work help release energy from the three energy nutrients: carbohydrate, fat, and protein. B vitamins help to manufacture red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues requiring it for the release of energy. Unlike the fat-soluble vitamins, the water-soluble ones are generally absorbed directly from the intestine into the blood. Because they are water soluble, they are easily excreted in the urine.
Thiamin and Riboflavin are B vitamins. These B vitamins help release energy from the three energy nutrients: carbohydrate, fat, and protein. B vitamins help to manufacture red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues requiring it for the release of energy. They help us regulate our moods and help our bodies release energy.
There is an ongoing debate about consumption of too much red meat and health. While there may be some evidence of this, I am firm believer that in moderation and small amounts meat can be consumed for our bodies good health needs. My own exception to eating meat would be to stop or at the very least minimize eating beef that has not been raised unethically by way of chemicals and growth hormones. Any protein that is not raised in its natural environment is classified in my books, as not the best for your health. I particularly love my staple diet of wild meats from deer, elk and moose because it is very lean and has many the nutrients our bodies need. It’s important that areas be free of contamination for our wild plants and animals. It would be an absolute travesty for my grandchildren to not have access to wild foods because of harmful levels of pollution and dangerous pesticides.
Siya (Berry) represents foods with antioxidants which include fruit.
Berries are excellent sources of fiber, a nutrient important for a healthy digestive system. I have learned that fruits give us of fiber, vitamins, minerals, including foliate, potassium and vitamins A and C. A mindful intake of berries and fruits in its natural organic state protects your body against illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. I use the word mindful because we can over consume any food and it can become harmful to our health. If we sweeten our fruits with processed white sugar on a consistent basis then fruit and berries are not acting as good health agents. I tend to not sweeten my fruits and berries but if I must, I use natural and local organic honey as a supplement to any fruit or berry. Our Siya Food Chief we honor every year. My mother daughter and I pack a healthy lunch, we sing songs we gather our baskets and we then we go berry picking. This is our tradition. It brings our connection back to places my family has harvested for centuries. This is where I hear the stories. After a long day we rinse and preserve them into reused jars for the winter. Simple health! Honor our local wild foods.
Spitlem (Bitter Root) represents food from the soil rich with nutrients.
The bitterroot is from the family of roots and tubers. These foods are especially important because they draw their nutrients from the soil of the earth. Roots contain nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber. Perhaps the most beneficial to one’s health is balanced diets that include roots are known to prevent diabetes and obesity. I grew up eating a lot of organic potatoes because my grandfather was a potato farmer. We didn’t eat them deep-fried or drenched with butter and sour cream. They were usually in a savory lean deer stew. If they were fried bacon renderings were used sparingly from natural fats. My mom is a firm believer if we do consume fats they should be natural and with extreme moderation.
Potatoes contain antioxidants and B vitamins. B vitamins help our bodies convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which the body uses to produce energy. These B vitamins, often referred to as B complex vitamins, also help the body use fats and protein. However be weary of potatoes that are not farmed organic. Potatoes are highest food of pesticide residues. Your local organic farmers market is great choice of to avoid these types of toxins.
Carrots are an amazing source of vitamin A. They are also a good source of vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin K, vitamin E, manganese and potassium. They help improve eye health, including glaucoma and cataract prevention. They also provide a great handy snack alternative to eating junk food and highly sugared snacks.
Onions contain biotin. Our bodies need biotin to metabolize carbohydrates, fats and amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Biotin helps strengthen hair and nails. Like all B vitamins, it is water soluble, meaning the body does not store it. Onions also contain vitamin C, copper, B6 and B1, phosphorous, potassium, and foliate. Foliate helps our cardiovascular system, benefiting both the heart and the blood vessels. They help increase bone density, support ligaments, and are an anti-inflammatory. Onions also help to balance blood sugar. Onions contain sulfur compounds that lower blood sugar and help reduce the risk of diabetes.
Beets are my all time favorite. I love them because they taste incredible! Beets contain folate, manganese, potassium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C, B6, and iron. They are an amazing antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support for the body and their fiber is especially healthy for the digestive tract.
Organic Garlic is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin B6. Manganese helps the body with healthy bone structure, bone metabolism, and helps to create essential enzymes for building bones. It also is great for healthy metabolic activities in the human body. It has vitamin C and copper, and a good source of selenium. Selenium-rich foods may be able to help the body to fight inflammation, increase blood flow and acts as an antioxidant activity. It also contains phosphorus, vitamin B1, and calcium. It is one of earths greatest a natural medicines as an antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory. Garlic also improves cardiovascular health.
Ntyxtix (King Salmon) represent all the food that lives in the water.
My favorite food of all the four foods is Wild Salmon. I love wild salmon and even as I am writing this blog my mouth is watering and I start to feel happy. Salmon is sacred to us. We have ceremonies honoring this food.
Salmon has omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are an essential fatty acid that plays an important role in our brains function. These fatty acids can only be ingested by eating fish or nuts as our body does not make these fatty acids. So it’s important we consume salmon, fish or nuts as part of our diet. In our oral stories salmon was given to and we know it to be our brain food. In today’s world salmon is high in B Vitamins. Studies have shown that all of the B vitamins work together to maintain optimal functioning of your brain and nervous system. B vitamins process in our bodies turning our food into good energy. Wild salmon is also high in Potassium. A fillet of wild Salmon actually contains more potassium than an equivalent amount of banana. Potassium helps control blood pressure. Potassium helps lowers blood pressure by slowing down excess water retention.
My greatest fear is that our Chief salmon absolutely requires healthy water, in order for them to survive. Salmon can absorb contaminants and chemicals. The more we pollute our waters the more we take away our beautiful foods of the water. Let’s do our best to keep our oceans, lakes and streams healthy. Our salmon need us.
These are stories about our four foods that I share with you as inspiration. A recipe of hope and love to care for our bodies and the environment that feeds us.
iʔ x̌əs iɬn t̕it̕yʔəm:
k’ʷək̕ʷinaʔ iʔ mysxʷʔit. lut aks txʷʔaqsəm. c̕ʕac̕skʷ aks cʼiɬn t̕iʔ put.
ats x̌aywʔ mi cʼistxʷ. x̌ʷaylskʷ iʔ lut x̌ast.
itl ats k’ʷl̕ɬtəmxʷulaʔxʷəm mi cnistxʷ. aɬi ixiʔ minimɬcəlx an xʷəlxʷltansəlx.
i captikʷl “i kmusməs i ylilmixʷəm x̌əlʼ scʼiɬn” isuməms “captikʷɬ” iʔ tan syilxcn. i “cipcaptikʷɬ” ixiʔ tlaʔkin ikʷu sqilxʷ ki kʷu cxʷuyiʔ. i captikʷɬ ats kʷiskʷəsts an cʼx̌ʷiltns i syilx ixiʔ aɬ tiɬxsc tali xəʔit sxʷəpks spinkt iʔ sqilxʷ ats myscut isk̕ul̕əls.
tali əts limtəmstn itəmxʷulaʔxʷtət aɬiʔ nyʕayp kʷuts kʼulʼxtm təks scʼiɬntət uɬ i smamayʔ uɬ ancʼx̌ʷiltn ats tʼukʼʷɬtis iʔ syilx.
ikʷu syilx axaiəlx i kmusməs i ylilmixʷəmtət x̌əlʼ scʼiɬn: