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Wisdom: Feeding our Spirits (3 photos)

Ontario Native Women Association (ONWA) continues Mental Health Week with open fire cooking.

From popped wild rice to fried bannock, the virtual sharing of food on Friday brought people together for an open discussion on mental health.

The Ontario Native Women’s Association celebrated an open discussion about mental health with Feeding Our Spirits – Indigenous Traditional Food and Open Fire Cooking with Audrey DeRoy.

As an ONWA land-based coordinator, DeRoy led an afternoon of cooking over an open fire, discussing food, vitamins, and practices of nibwaakaawin (wisdom).

DeRoy emphasized the practice of nibwaakaawin and how it carries through cherishing knowledge and is given by Creator to be used for the good of the people.

Cooking as a mental health practice

The simple act of sharing a meal has been put on hold over the past year, but Creator supplies sustenance from Mother Earth to continue cooking, even if sharing those gifts is from afar, DeRoy said.

“During the pandemic, I miss being around family and I heard stories from people yesterday about not being around family so we’re learning to appreciate what we have," she added.

The act of cooking for yourself and for others allows a deep connection and can be used as a form of healing.

DeRoy made Mushkeegobug tea, from herbs harvested last year, popped wild rice and zaazazagwan (fried bannock).

“With all the animals and plants that we eat we give thanks to Creator,” DeRoy reminded everyone, saying, “[by doing this] we’re bringing [our identity] back [because] your identity is your confidence, it’s everything.”

Sharing stories

DeRoy shared her experiences cooking throughout her lifetime and discussed how the practice of creating a meal can be a healing experience, like sharing your story or crying.

“Allow yourself to cry. All the courageous people that have shared their stories all week – we’re being fed emotionally.”

Like eating a meal, we are all fed through sharing stories and being vulnerable with ones we feel safe with and DeRoy gave this knowledge to everyone, reminding people to continue sharing.

Making mental health a priority

Whether it’s through cooking and sharing a meal or crying with a loved one, ONWA is taking the time to remind everyone that healing and healthy mental health practice is different for everyone, and how a person chooses to practice their mental health journey comes in many forms. 

ONWA’s events continue Saturday with Enhancing our Mental Health Bundle – Teachings and Sharing Circle with Niemi Himes, ONWA Mental Health Worker at 2 p.m. EST. Registration is open to everyone and can be done through and can be found on ONWA’s Facebook page.

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