Hay River’s Woodland Manor pilots traditional foods program

Cranberries harvested in the fall of 2020
Cranberries harvested in the fall of 2020. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

If you’re ready to part with a few cups of cranberries – or nearly any other meat, fish, or plants from the land – Hay River’s health authority is seeking donations for a traditional foods pilot program.

The pilot began on October 13, accepting donations of food for use in meals eaten by residents at Woodland Manor, Hay River’s long-term care home.

If all goes well, the people supervising the program are hope it can expand to the town’s other healthcare facilities.

Sandy Cowger, the authority’s manager of support services, said the town had been chosen by the territorial government for the pilot. Cowger is leading the program with Danielle Antoine, the authority’s recreation care coordinator.



“We’ve been wanting a program like this for as long as I can remember,” Cowger said. “We’ve talked about bringing traditional foods in and there’s been a lot of red tape, but having the government make it an initiative on their level has opened door for us to run the program.”

Types of meat from the land accepted by the program are moose, caribou, bear, porcupine, duck, beaver, muskrat, swan, Dall sheep, rabbit, ptarmigan, bison, squirrel, grouse, muskox, reindeer, goose, and bones.

From the water, the program will accept lake trout, pickerel, Dolly Varden trout, inconnu (coney), bull trout, loche (burbot), white fish, fish eggs, northern pike, beluga, seal, arctic char, bowhead whale, salmon, and arctic grayling.

Plants accepted are cloudberries, low and high-bush cranberries, saskatoon berries, crowberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, spruce tree tips, and Labrador tea.



Before mid-October, Elders living at Woodland Manor had access to country foods only if their families brought them in. Now, manor staff will cook and serve donated food to Elders.

“The reason why they do donation is that you don’t pay for traditional foods,” explained Antoine.

“Usually, when you give something, you get a trade-off. So usually you’ll give an Elder some meat and they’ll give you a small token for gratitude and thank you.”

The pilot has “a small fund for gifts,” Cowger said, “but the whole idea is that this traditional food is gifted to our Elders.

“The reason why we get donations, too, is so that the Elders are able to share their stories when they have the food in front of them,” added Antoine.

Donations, fresh or frozen, should be high-quality and arrive in food-grade packaging.

“It’s not an animal being donated in a garbage bag,” said Cowger, while Antoine explained meat should be wrapped in brown butcher’s paper.

Hunters must fill out a form about their harvest detailing the time of the kill, outdoor temperature, and how the meat was transported.

Cowger and Antoine are also looking for people to participate in a working group for the pilot who can share their knowledge of traditional foods.

To donate food or join the working group, call Cowger at (867) 874-8368.