English River First Nation country foods assessment

Fiscal Year



English River First Nation, Saskatchewan

Principal Investigator

Ryan Froess, Canada North Environmental Services

Community Project Lead

Cheyenna Campbell

Project Members

Harriet Phillips, Norman Wolverine, Kelly Wells and James Irvine



Project Summary

The English River First Nation (ERFN) has a total of seven reserve lands scattered across Saskatchewan. The region is rich in uranium deposits which are the source of considerable mining activities. The ERFN community expressed concerns regarding the potential impacts of nearby uranium operations and uranium exploration activities on their traditional fishing, hunting, and gathering grounds.

The overall study objective was to examine whether country foods consumed by the ERFN community members are safe to eat. The study involved three components: a dietary survey, a sampling program and a human health risk assessment (HHRA).

A food frequency questionnaire was developed to collect information regarding the quantity, type, and harvest location of traditional foods (land mammals, fish, berries and medicinal plants) consumed by residents of two communities: Patuanak and La Plonge First Nations. Traditional foods were sampled to measure levels of chemical and radiological contaminants (aluminum, arsenic, barium, cadmium, copper, mercury, lead, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, strontium, titanium, and uranium). The collected data was used to perform the HHRA.

The results of this study showed that chemical concentrations in the majority of country food samples were low or below detectable levels. Out of 53 fish samples tested, only one sample of lake trout contained an elevated level of mercury. Pregnant women, women of childbearing age and children should choose fish known to have lower levels of mercury, such as lake whitefish and sucker, as well as smaller sizes of walleye, northern pike, and lake trout, which are known to have higher levels of mercury. The concentrations of lead in grouse and muskrat samples were elevated, likely due to the use of lead shot as ammunition. Therefore, it was recommended that hunters use alternatives to lead ammunition. The study concluded that potential exposures to contaminants from the consumption of country foods were below levels associated with adverse health effects.