For the past year and a half Duck Bay First Nation band member Bossy Ducharme has been on a traditional diet. He ate only Native foods, pre-European contact. No McDonalds, no pizza, just mostly wild rice, berries, nuts and wild game.
“I wanted to prove that there’s a connection to what we eat and our quality of life,” Ducharme said.
Ducharme started his diet on September 21, 2010 and continued through January 31, 2012.
“It wasn’t easy,” Ducharme said. “Probably one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life.”
“But it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.”
Ducharme said he first got the idea to go on a strictly natural Native diet after hearing about all the kids committing suicide in Pikangikum First Nation.
“I said to myself there’s something wrong with this picture. Suddenly this foreign body came to this land, they took over and one hundred years later this is happening,” he said.
“So I started because I wondered what would happen if I took out (from my diet) everything that was brought here from European contact. If I just put in my body what our ancestors put in their bodies, I wondered what would happen. Maybe my life would change.”
Ducharme had already made huge changes to his life once.
Now in his early 40s, he spent much of his life on the streets in Winnipeg, but for the past 12 years he’s been living in Toronto. Since moving to Ontario he has worked as a manager for Nishnawbe Health Toronto and the Native Men’s Residence.
“I’ve had a lot of struggles. I used to be homeless but turned my life around,” he said.
But even with these positive changes, there was still something missing.
“I knew I still wasn’t happy with my life. I felt lonely and out of balance and I didn’t feel like I had a purpose.”
Before starting his diet Ducharme weighed 223 lbs.
“My doctor told me I was obese and might have a heart attack. I was too young for that,” he said.
A year and a half later he now weighs a healthy 145 lbs.
“Your life changes when you’re physically confident about yourself. It’s not vanity, but you just feel good,” he said.
Ducharme thinks this connection with food is the reason why First Nations have social problems like diabetes and suicide.
“If you eat like our ancestors you’ll be better off,” he said.
He said he’s also more calm, more aware, more present.
“There’s an energy now and I feel more connected spiritually, and more healthy.”
Ducharme said it took about three months into the diet for his body to be clean and to feel like he does now.
“My life changed because my whole life revolved around eating the traditional diet,” he explained. “As a result I found routine and balance. So I became more present about my life and what was around me. I became more calm and more content with what was coming my way.”
Ducharme said the first few months were the hardest.
“About a month into it the only way to get myself through it was to talk to the Creator,” he said. “I was having withdrawals and I really didn’t know what I was doing, how to eat properly, so it was a real struggle.
“I couldn’t taste anything at first because there was no salt in anything I was eating. Everything we eat has salt in it. First Nations people just ate things like there were, so duck tastes like duck, and moose tastes like moose...but after about a month I started tasting again,” Ducharme said.
He also got support from friends, both old and new. “My Native friends thought it was kind of cool,” he said.
But his circles of friends changed, and new positive people came into his life. This happened because he was keeping a food journal of his diet online.
He said the online food journal evolved from his Facebook page. People on his Facebook would want to know exactly what he was eating.
“I was already keeping a paper journal log, so I just started doing it online,” he said.
Through these new friends people started helping him with his food too. Living in Toronto it’s expensive to buy the right natural foods, so some people would pay for his wild rice and others would mail him frozen game meat.
It was also through his online journal that he was asked to speak about his diet and it’s implications for First Nations people on a speaking tour around New Zealand this coming July and August.
“The Aboriginal people of New Zealand have the same social problems as us here in North America,” he said.
Ducharme is currently studying film at George Brown College and is also turning his food journey into a documentary called Not A Good Day To Die.
“It’s kind of like Supersize Me, but with healthy foods,” he said.
He plans on submitting his film to the international 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Ducharme feels that reclaiming a traditional diet is something people all over the world should do. “If you eat like your ancestors, your quality of life will improve. Then you will feel like you have purpose,” he said.
Not A Good Day To Die is still being filmed and will be released in 2013. To see exactly what Ducharme ate during his year and a half diet visit his food blog at https://sites.google.com/site/bossy1stnationdietjournal/
I feel a greater sense of hope and optimism these days for the future when I talk to many of our young First Nation people. There are still many hurdles and...