Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College established the Nutrition
Assessment and Education project to assess the nutritional needs of the
Ojibwa people and to examine ways to address these nutritional needs while
maintaining traditional tribal nutrition practices. The author initiated the
project, in collaboration with other tribal organizations and businesses, in
response to the high risk and prevalence of diabetes, heart disease, and other
nutrition-related health problems among the Ojibwa people.
The author focused on the members of the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa community
living on or near the L'Anse reservation in northern Michigan on
Keweenaw Bay of Lake Superior. About 860 of the 3,550 members of the
Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa tribal community live on the reservation. This study
provided information on the second year of the nutrition project, in which
the project team continued their survey of local food establishment operators
and tribal elders living on or adjacent to the L'Anse reservation.
Interviews with elders provided information about their eating habits and
their views on eating traditional Ojibwa foods such as wild rice, fish, wild
game, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Many elders reported that they
had to stop eating traditional food when they were sent as children to residential
boarding schools or orphanages that did not serve these foods.
Others who grew up on the reservation reported that they felt they were
forced to eat many of the staple traditional foods (venison, bear, and
muskrat) too frequently because they could not afford other foods.
Therefore, they associated traditional foods with the conditions of poverty
in which they grew up. However, over half the elders reported that they
would like to eat traditional Ojibwa food at least once per week and over
one-fourth reported that they would like to eat it at least once per day.
The nutrition project team gathered information from elders with knowledge
of the preparation of traditional foods and of the cultural practices associated
with their preparation and consumption. To encourage the Ojibwa
people to eat traditional food, the nutrition project produced a cookbook of
traditional Ojibwa foods and has encouraged local restaurants and feeding
programs to incorporate these foods in their menus.