MANIWAKI, Quebec — When the Algonquin chef Cezin Nottaway was 5 years old, her mother taught her how to kill and skin a beaver with her bare hands. The little girl also learned how to snare a rabbit and to draw a moose out of the forest by emulating its haunting grunt.
“We were using local ingredients long before it became fashionable,” Ms. Nottaway, 38, said in her log-cabin kitchen on the Kitigan Zibi reserve, near this town about 85 miles north of Ottawa.
Here, she prepares dishes like smoked roast moose with tea and onions for weddings, wakes and charity events. Her company, Wawatay Catering, has fed elementary school students, a group of judges and even the former Canadian prime minister Joe Clark.
Ms. Nottaway, who took her company’s name from the Algonquin word for northern lights, is part of a new generation of Canadian chefs who are reclaiming and popularizing indigenous foods as part of a growing culinary affirmation of identity.
“Embracing this cuisine is a form of taking back what is ours,” she said.
That renewed interest comes at a time when Canada is trying to reconcile with its troubled colonial past. Among other abuses, government and church authorities deprived indigenous children of their native dishes at the “residential schools” that were created to assimilate them. The government also restricted access to food in order to clear people from land so it could be developed.