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New exhibit pairs NWT food history with weekly tastings

Last modified: January 25, 2023 at 10:16am


The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre’s first exhibit of 2023 opens on Thursday, combining an exhibit on northern food with weekly tastings.

The exhibit, Delicious, showcases 17 archival images spanning 1910 to 1993. The tastings will be run by the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre’s Youth on the Land program.

Erin Suliak, the exhibit’s curator, says having the images alongside the tastings is an opportunity for people to learn about traditional foodways – a social science term for the cultural, social and economic aspects of producing and eating food.

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“It’s not just what you put on your plate, but everything that goes around it,” Suliak said.

“How are things gathered? How do people learn about cooking? How is that knowledge passed from generation to generation?”

The goal, Suliak says, is to give people a chance to try new food while learning from those preparing and cooking it.

“They’re there to share their knowledge as well,” she said.

“Once you start scratching at the surface, you realize how much depth is there behind these foods. It’s not just about what you eat, it’s everything around it too.

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“The North has particularly special things that we gather, and that we eat, and all of the culture around it is such a wonderful thing to talk about and to share.”

The exhibit looks at food from places like Gwich’in and Inuvialuit communities and the Fort Resolution area. Archive images feature different cooks and food stores, providing historical context.

Occasionally, Delicious touches on NWT food icons of a different sort.

“We have a photograph of the old Kentucky Fried Chicken in Yellowknife,” Suliak told Cabin Radio.

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Young people working on the food tasting portion of the exhibit
Young people working on the food tasting portion of the exhibit. Photo: Christina Moore

“You have that, and you can see how long franchise food has been a thing in the Northwest Territories. We also have a photo of Elder William Antoine holding a caribou head.”

That image notes the importance of caribou, she said.

“It sparks conversation about a very well-respected Elder, and that’s what we want from this: conversation and opportunities to learn.”

Christina Moore, an Indigenous youth worker at the Tree of Peace, served as a project manager with Indigenous youth to plan the tastings.

Moore said the idea of incorporating tastings into the exhibit came after museum staff attended a youth advisory meeting held by the friendship centre.

“They came to talk about how we can connect more with them, and they were like, ‘Hey, we have this exhibit coming up and it’s all about traditional foods,’” Moore explained.

“Cooking is a big part of what we do out on the land, so we thought it was a really nice tie to have traditional food demonstrations and traditional harvesters there during the exhibit.”

Moore hopes having the tastings at the museum will encourage more collaborations and, in turn, provide more opportunities to Indigenous youth.

“Just getting sectors involved is so important. With this we have the Tree of Peace, Ecology North, Bush Kids, YKDFN and the museum,” she said.

“These groups all help empower the youth and help with skill development and employability skills, and it’s really great because they get to learn by doing and providing to this community.”

Delicious opens on Thursday, January 26 at 12pm, with tastings from 12-2pm. After that, the exhibit will be open during museum hours – 10am-5pm, Tuesday through Sunday.

Tastings will happen every Thursday from 12-2pm. Those attending are encouraged to dress warm as the tastings will take place in a wall tent outside.

More information on the exhibit can be found on the museum’s website.