Food is Medicine: Taking a pause to listen to the sounds of community, food and wellness


Food is central to our daily lives. It is sustenance, culture, medicine, connection, and much more. The language we use when talking about food varies tremendously and the words we use hold meaning and create pathways to shared understanding.

English words have limitations because they come from a dominant colonial worldview. When we establish a shared understanding that is centered on Elders and Knowledge Holders perspectives of the words, or a common language, we allow the true meaning behind those words to become visible.

The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) recently published the Common Language Report and its accompanying Toolkit, which dives deep into the language we use and the values we hold when discussing topics surrounding food: food security, nutrition, medicine, and traditional foods. Please take the time to read through those documents.

"​Food is Medicine" requires us to slow down and notice where our food comes from. It is an opportunity to wait for the proper foods to be harvested during the proper season; and to learn from the cycles of nature around us; to listen to the foods, lands and waters on what they need from us. Integrating these teachings into our lives and our rituals is a powerful way to practice “Food is Medicine". ​We invite you around the table that has been created, and encourage you continue to nurture and honor your own table in your communities, nations and families.

We also invite you to pause and listen to the sounds of community as they talk about what food and wellness means to them. The maps below contains QR codes to audio clips where you can hear from Knowledge Holders, Elders and community members across various language groups that participated in the Common Language Project:


Listen: Traditional Foods, Food Security, Nutrition and Medicine

“A long time ago there was the grease trail that went from the West Coast into Alberta. There was a lot of trading and there still is a lot of trading going on today." - Liza Sam

“We did a food survey, and one of the things we're really finding out is that there are a lot of allergies. Things like lactose intolerance. I think as time goes on some of these things, like gluten, we're more sensitive to things like this now. It's really showing up." - Michelle McDonald


Listen: Traditional Foods, Food Security, Nutrition and Medicine

“It's nice to go after these kinds of foods from the land. But a lot of us have a hard time accessing those foods from our land. Simply put, you can't have food sovereignty unless you control the land." - Fred Fortier

“I remember my grandparents saying that we have to get our meat ready, we have to get our gardens ready, we have to do our canning. We had to get everything ready so that we could make it through the winter." - Debra Robbins

“Food Security is actually how we are looking after our plants and foods and animals and fish." - Nora Billy

“They're like, 'where's the bannock?' And I'm like, 'I am not serving you bannock anymore, that's not traditional, and that's not good for you so you are not getting it.' They'll throw a fuss but I am like, 'Auntie, I want to see you live to be 80. I don't want to see you die young. So I am not doing that anymore.'" - Steven Teed


Listen: Traditional Foods, Food Security, Nutrition and Medicine

“It's very far for me to go home and I couldn't go out and harvest food in Nitinaht Lake without going through the narrows." - Krista Joseph

“Food Security is planting the seeds in those young munus (children) and that they can carry on with what we are doing." - Tina Wesley

“This lelum (home) here has food everywhere and that's the thing we look at, is for that security, not only for myself here, but for other community members." - Fred Hwiemtun Roland

“I really think it's important to keep the question in mind when working with Indigenous people, and talking about food and Nutrition. Asking the question, 'what are the considerations for the protection of this food, and the protection of this food against western exploitation?'" - Tsimka Martin


Listen: Traditional Foods, Food Security, Nutrition and Medicine

“I showed my daughter wild strawberries when they were out and she's now forever looking for strawberries." - Dan Dan Peters

“When I think of Traditional Foods I think of the foods my grandparents ate, our ancestors ate." - Bonnie Cahoose

“I go and pick certain things every year now and I want to keep learning more." - Darla John


Listen: Traditional Foods, Food Security, Nutrition and Medicine

“And of course food is Medicine. It's important to know that." - Yvonne Tumangday Kaxte

You can listen to all of the knowledge holders, Elders and community members' voices in our Common Language Project YouTube playlist.

The FNHA wants to hear about your traditional food practices and see your photos, e.g., smoking fish, drying meat, picking berries, canning, whatever it is you do! Send your stories or photos to the FNHA's Wellness Team at, or tag @FNHA or #foodismedicinefnha . You can also share on our Food is Medicine page right here.​

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