Ruby Pahtayken was part of the group of OC culinary students learning about foraging, traditional ingredients and Indigenous cooking practices from Westbank First Nations Elders Pam and Grouse Barnes. Photo: Okanagan College

Okanagan College culinary students experience local Indigenous flavours

Traditional Okanagan-Syilx styles were taught by Westbank First Nation Elders

Salmon fillets, roe and steamed veggies were some of the main entreés for students in the Okanagan College Indigenous culinary arts class.

In the first ever year of the class, students took a field trip to WestBank First Nation and were given the opportunity to learn about traditional Indigenous style of cooking with hands-on experiences with WFN Elders Pamela and Grouse Barnes.

The students come from different backgrounds, but some felt right at home.

“This has been quite the experience,” said Ruby Pahtayken, a student from the Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.

“All of this is new to me. Back home, we don’t have the same fish, but this is how we uniformly cook it, over the open fire. Cooking like this in your own backyard and learning the teachings from our ancestors, our grandmothers and grandfathers, brings me back home.”

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The field trip was part of the broadening culinary arts program at OC, which was brought in with collaboration with the Barnes’, who’s passion for teaching is helping students in the culinary programs.

“For me, it’s about sharing knowledge, sharing the stuff that we do,” Grouse Barnes said.

“We share because we know that the knowledge we share is like a calm pond. When you throw a pebble in the middle, the ripple affects not only students here, but whoever they’re going to teach: their kids, grandbabies, where they take this knowledge.”

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The Indigenous culinary arts class is open to anyone, however, every student in the inaugural class is from a Canadian Indigenous background. The pilot is supported by the Industry Training Authority and the Okanagan Training and Development Council.

Pahtayken said that the new skills and techniques will help with her culinary future.

“What I can utilize and gather here in the field is similar to the gathering of information. I can take it back home to Saskatchewan and I can share it with my community.”

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