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Bannock Challenge

Estimated Time: 30-40 Minutes


My #Next150 challenge is simple; I’m asking you to make bannock and to share a picture of your finished product, a video of you making the bannock, or the recipe you used to social media using the hashtag #BannockChallenge. I hope that you’ll use this simple challenge as a push to learn more about Indigenous foods today and throughout history - and do your best to make this as healthy as you can!

About This Challenge

Bannock and fry bread are often seen as quintessential Indigenous foods on Turtle Island - they find their way onto “Indigenous” menus all around the country at food trucks, at pow wows, and even fine dining restaurants. But as you know - as the savvy #Next150 challenge-taker that you are - there is no “pan-Indigenous” culture of Turtle Island. There’s no singular design style, clothing style, art style, or cuisine that represents all Indigenous cultures on Turtle Island. So how did bannock/fry bread become so ubiquitous among Indigenous cultures here?

In our modern understanding of Indigenous cuisine and country foods - bannock and fry bread are often part of the conversation. For some communities, bannock and fry bread became ingrained in our cuisines after contact when Indigenous Peoples’ food sources were severely restricted or outright rationed by the settler governments. Fry bread and bannock became subsistence foods - or foods made for survival. With just a few simple ingredients, parents and caregivers could create food that was warm and delicious for their families. During the times of ration boxes (just as we continue to do to this day) Indigenous individuals of the day adapted to their circumstances and to the colonial constraints put on them by settler governments - and still made something amazing out of it.

Why Bannock?

Some Indigenous people and communities enjoyed bannock and variations of it prior to contact, and those foods and recipes are still around today. However, the bannock and fry-bread that most of us know (and probably love), rely on post-contact ingredients. Does that fact make these bannock or fry-bread recipes “less traditional”? That’s up to individuals to think about and to reflect upon personally, but it does bring up ideas of modern nationhood and how we define ourselves as cultures and communities today.

For many Indigenous people, bannock is an intensely personal food. It seems like almost every family has its own recipe and preparation for the food passed down through the generations - and probably some stories about how the recipe came to be. Whether or not you view bannock as a traditional food, it’s undeniably part of Indigenous cultures throughout Turtle Island now. Some communities and families look to pre-contact bannock as their favourite, while others rely on the flour, salt and sugar that we know today. This often means that bannock - while it’s a comfort food - is not nutritious and might not necessarily serve our needs for healthy diets. We can always find ways to incorporate the foods we love - traditional and not - into our lives. I encourage you to explore new bannock recipes and maybe try some healthier versions of the food you may know and love.

Bannock is an excellent symbol for the complex relationship that some Indigenous people have with their identity and their community history. We all grapple with gaps in knowledge about pre-contact life that we want to fill, we all work to build up our communities in our current contexts, and we all look to our family - those who are alive today and those who came before us - to better understand ourselves and our place in the world. Bannock has a storied history on these lands; although it’s a simple food with a simple preparation, it can unlock some complicated feelings and ideas about nationhood, identity, belonging, and community history.

For this challenge, I want you to think about country foods, think about food sovereignty, and think about food security. I really want you to take these issues seriously and ask yourself why there aren’t more regional Indigenous restaurants and established culinary scenes in Canada and why so many people in Canada - including many Indigenous people - lack access to basic nutrition and have for generations. Ask yourself how you can support efforts to improve access to healthy, sustainable, affordable, culturally-appropriate foods for everyone in Canada, especially Indigenous people. I want you to think about what a healthy diet is and who has access to that diet in this country. I hope this simple challenge - asking you to make bannock, and to share it with someone that you care about - will get you to think about issues of food sovereignty in Canada and to think about your role in the food systems that exist today and the food systems that have existed on these lands since Time Immemorial.

How to Make Bannock:

Additional Resources

More About Bannock

Food Security and Sovereignty

Indigenous Cuisines on Turtle Island


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Art napoleon
A challenge from:
Art Napoleon

Art Napoleon is host and co-producer of APTN’s popular show Moosemeat & Marmalade, an international food series that showcases Indigenous foods, traditional knowledge and outdoor cooking techniques. This former chief is as comfortable on a big city stage or boardroom as he is skinning a moose in a hailstorm with a pocketknife. Art grew up in the boreal forests and mountains of Northern BC where he learned bush-skills including traditional plant use and outdoor cooking. Art holds an MA in Language Revitalization from the University of Victoria, is a language educator and practices subsistence activities on a seasonal basis. Based in Victoria BC, Art remains connected to his home territory and his Cree and Dane Zaa roots. When he is not producing TV he tours regularly as a performer and speaker and also serves as a juror on arts & culture organizations across Canada. His moose stew has been known to cure hangovers and his campfire tales have mended broken hearts…or so the stories go. 

"Make bannock and share a picture of your finished product, a video of you making the bannock, or the recipe you used to social media using the hashtag #BannockChallenge. I hope that you’ll use this simple challenge as a push to learn more about Indigenous foods today and throughout history - and do your best to make this as healthy as you can!"

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