Country Foods Study

Final Report Executive Summary

In 2015/2016, the Nokiwiin Tribal Council (NTC) secured funding from the National First Nations Contaminants Program to conduct a country foods study. The first part of the study obtained information regarding the quantity, type, and harvest location of country foods consumed by community members in four NTC communities: Animbiigoo Zaagi’igan Anishinaabek (AZA), Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek (BNA), Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek (BZA), and Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek (KZA). A NTC specific Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) was developed and band members were hired and trained to conduct interviews with community residents. The results of the survey are based on responses from a total of 95 people from the four NTC communities.

Traditional meat that was predominantly harvested included moose, snowshoe hare, and deer. Fish were the most utilized country food type and the most common fish species consumed was walleye, followed by lake whitefish and lake trout. The most frequently consumed birds were spruce and ruffed grouse, followed by Canada goose and mallard duck. The most common berry types were blueberry, wild strawberry, and wild raspberry. The consumption frequency and quantities reported varied between the communities, but were within the range of other First Nations surveyed in Ontario and across Canada. Traditional foods have a number of health benefits; thus, the regular consumption of locally collected fish, meat, and vegetation is recommended to residents.

The second part of the study involved collecting and chemically analyzing water and country food samples (fish, blueberry, birds, snowshoe hare, moose, etc.) from locations near the study communities and traditional hunting and gathering areas. The water samples contained chemical concentrations that were below guidelines and do not pose a risk to environmental or human health.

Metal concentrations measured in the NTC country food samples were mainly similar to, or lower than, Health Canada’s total dietary study values and regional data. The mean mercury levels in five northern pike in Postagoni Lake and five lake trout from Pipestone Point in Lake Nipigon were above a consumption guideline of 0.5 mg/kg, which means that fish should be eaten in limited amounts (especially pregnant women and children). High lead concentrations in some of the moose and upland bird (partridge and grouse) samples illustrate that lead shot should not be used when hunting as it can contaminate the meat and cause health concerns. The three moose liver and kidney samples tested as part of this study did not contain overly high cadmium concentrations when compared to national data; however, further testing would be needed to evaluate if consumption restrictions are warranted, particularly for high risk populations such as smokers.

The results of the NTC country food study demonstrate that country foods are frequently gathered and hunted near the study communities and are important to the diet of the NTC communities. Harvesting and consuming traditional foods are integral components of good health among Aboriginal people, influencing both physical health and social wellbeing. For several food types the sample sizes were limited; however, this study provides preliminary data and can act as a baseline for future developments.

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