Food is Medicine: Decolonize Your Diet

Food is Medicine: Decolonize Your Diet

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July 31, 2015

For Goenpul woman EVA COGHILL, decolonization includes sustainable hunting/fishing practices. Respecting animals by following cultural protocol will ensure we can continue to enjoy the traditional foods that keep us healthy.

For many thousands of years, my people have relied on Quandamooka (Moreton Bay) and the ocean surrounding Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island – my paternal grandfather’s country) to sustain us. Historically, our diet consisted of mostly seafood. We ate and continue to eat many types of djauwan (fish), crustaceans and shellfish.

My people worked closely with the bubangan (dolphins) who would assist us in rounding up the djauwan and driving them toward the shore where we would be waiting with spears to catch them. Once we had caught enough to feed our family, we would always provide the dolphins with the best djauwan of the catch to thank them for their help.

This way of hunting continued for many thousands of years. However, due to the invasion of Minjerribah, we were forced to stop this practice and sadly lost that special connection with the bubangan.

Whilst the seafood supply surrounding Minjerribah was once abundant, it is now diminishing due to increased commercial and recreational fishing in the surrounding bay and ocean. This has meant the quantity we can ‘legally’ take has been reduced.

However, we continue to assert our sovereign right to our traditional foods and as we were taught, only take as much food as we need to feed our family and elders. We have also been taught to only take certain species of animals when they are in season. For example, we only catch ngandagal (sea mullet) during the winter and we only take the male wiinyam (mud crabs) to allow the females to continue the breeding cycle.

To this day, we continue to follow this protocol – never taking more then we need, never hunting or fishing out of season.

We continue to gather shellfish such as quampies (pearl shell), mussels, clams and ghinnyingarra (oysters) from the tidal flats surrounding the island. We also eat a shellfish from the coastal side of the island called eugaries (more commonly known as pipis).

Historically, once we would finishing eating the shellfish (among other kinds of seafood), we would put the shells in a pile. These piles grew over time to create what we now know as ‘middens’. The jercruca (middens) on Minjerribah date back at least 25,000 years and identified our places of living and gathering. Today, we continue to add to the middens every time we eat seafood.

It is important that I incorporate as much seafood as possible into my diet. It is the food that my body is immune to.

Foreign, introduced foods make me feel ill. Eugaries assist with digestion and the juice is good for our immune systems.

My father taught me all I know about catching seafood around Minjerribah. I also learned much by observing other family members partake in traditional hunting practices. My parents and Elders taught me how to prepare and cook seafood. I ensure that these practices are handed down to my son, younger siblings and cousins.

*EVA COGHILL (Goenpul/Mununjali) is a mother, daughter and sister. She proudly spends her time gathering native foods from Minjerribah.

This article originally appeared in

Black Nations Rising ISSUE 2

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