Melissa Hardy, a Mi’kmaw Dietitian, on the importance of teaching Indigenous history and learning from wisdom

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As a Mi’kmaw Dietitian who grew up eating wild game, my style of eating wasn’t talked about in my dietetic training. In fact, during my 4 years of university, the only time I consumed moose meat or rabbit was when I went back home to visit.

When I talked about eating wild game it was shocking for many of my classmates. During my time in university, I tried to conform, and I deliberately choose to reduce (not eliminate) my meat intake, and became disconnected from my roots.

It was other Indigenous people, those who carry the knowledge—not dietetics—that re-taught me that traditional food is what’s best for my overall wellness.

My first job working in Northern Cree First Nations really allowed me to see dietetics from a different view. Many of my clients, coworkers and friends who went through the Residential School system shared their experiences with me and how it has impacted their eating habits today.

It is because of the resilient survivors’ stories that I learned the truth about chronic, intentional food restriction, unethical nutritional experiments, forced consumption of spoiled food, and deliberate withholding of traditional foods, and the impacts it continues to have generations later.

Many of the health problems faced by Indigenous people today are due to diet and are directly related to Canada’s cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized colonization as the most significant social determinant of health effect Indigenous peoples worldwide.

Melissa Hardy shares the ways in which nutrition has played a significant role in the harming of Indigenous peoples.

Reconciliation starts with the truth, and nutrition is deeply rooted in Canada’s Cultural Genocide of Indigenous peoples. It’s 2021, and thus way past time for the truth about Canadian history to be taught.

My university schooling did not set me up for success in Indigenous communities, and a chapter like 13.5 in Nutrition: A Functional Approach would have helped. A chapter in not suffice, but it’s a starting point.

I hope one day students can hear from the original scientists, the Elders—the ones that don’t necessarily have credentials behind their names, but they have knowledge well beyond the scope of post-secondary programs. Knowledge that was passed down through generations, rather than written down on white paper.

Melissa Hardy is a dietitian and proud Mi’kmaw from Ktaqmkuk (Newfoundland) who left home in 2010 to pursue a Bachelor of Science in human nutrition and an integrated dietetic internship diploma at St. Francis Xavier University (StFX) in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

Melissa has devoted her 6-year career to providing diverse nutrition education throughout rural communities. From fly-in Cree First Nations on the James and Hudson Bay Coast in Northern Ontario to Grey County in Southern Ontario, and now finally back on the East Coast residing in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Melissa currently works part time at Sodexo as the campus food dietitian at StFX and has her own private practice, East Coast Performance Nutrition, where virtual technology allows Melissa to connect with people all over the East Coast.

Melissa holds board certified designations as a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD), and has also obtained a graduate diploma in sports nutrition through the International Olympic Committee. She is also a contributor of Pearson Canada’s Nutrition: A Functional Approach, 4ce.