Session 9 – Indigenous Food Sovereignty


  • In the plenary session, we will have a guest lecture speak about their experience studying and working on issues of food security, food sovereignty and food justice.
  • In tutorial, your TA will guide you through the process of mapping Moments of Significance in your project work this term in order to recognize the multiple pathways and experiences in the group and articulate your vision for successful project completion (i.e. approaching a Graceful Dismount)


After completing this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Reflect on the challenges and opportunities for integrating food justice and indigenous food sovereignty perspectives when addressing issues of community food security.
  • Explain the importance of experiencing and resolving issues of uncertainty as a key process in developing professional competencies.
  • Articulate personal and group moments of significance in your CBEL project.
  • Collaboratively design strategies for successfully completing your project based on the discussion of personal moments of significant change.

Key Terms + Concepts

  • Indigenous food sovereignty
  • Uncertainty
  • Project Scope Change
  • Moments of Significant Change

Required Readings + Resources

Since the fall of 2016, we have been fortunate to have two undergraduate students provide a lecture on indigenous food sovereignty, integrating perspectives from current scholarly knowledge as well as drawing upon their own experiences as members of indigenous nations in (so-called) BC.

Our first guest lecture was by Julian Napolean, a GRS student and member of the Dane-zaa Nation, located in the Peace River region of so-called British Columbia. Here is Julian's final reflection on his experience in LFS 350:

"Despite this project being my first structured CBEL experience, I have a long history of involvement with community organizations focusing of social justice, food security, and environmental sustainability. I also identify as a low-income, Indigenous person who lives within the neighborhood associated with our CBEL project. While I do not feel that this gives me the right to make assumptions regarding the food security of others, I do feel competent in reflecting upon my own food security, past, present, and future. My culture is so intrinsically linked to the land that for me, food security and environmental justice are the same issue. In my opinion, the ongoing colonial oppression of the Indigenous people of this area presents the largest challenge to addressing food security in a meaningful manner. This is unceded Coast Salish territory; it is illegally held by the crown under their own colonial law. If food security discourses consistently focus on the accessibility of culturally appropriate foods, then our primary focus should be on preserving and rehabilitating the culturally appropriate foods of the Coast Salish people. I neither encountered a single Coast Salish person, nor heard any of their opinions during the entirety of our CBEL project. In my heart, I feel that any initiative of this matter should be striving to include these vital voices in the development and achievement of their mandate. Regardless of these feelings, the CBEL project did enable me to see the potential for the community food networks. I had an excellent and well-organized group and TA!"

Julian's final reflection initiated a critical change in LFS 350 and resulted in our attempts to bring more indigenous content and perspectives into the course.

In February of 2017, we were fortunate to have Keisha Charnley speak to the class. Keisha is from the Katzie First Nation and Blackburn, England. She is currently finishing an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science degree at UBC with a focus on land-based Indigenous Health. Keisha is passionate about making space for dignified access to decolonial wellness strategies through front-line work and community-grounded research. She carries extensive experience in food sovereignty and wellness work as a consultant and program coordinator, and is a founding member of the ekw’í7tl (ah-quay-tull) Indigenous Doula Collective. Through every role she holds in the community, Keisha seeks the guidance and inclusion of Elders and holds their leadership at the centre of the positive change she hopes to contribute to. Beyond this, Keisha’s personal interests include: surfing, working with plants and traditional medicines, food foraging, painting, and cooking. She strives to find a healthy balance between all of her passions in order to share her gifts with the community in a good way.

This term, the Fall of 2017, we are fortunate to have Niisii Guujaaw, a current LFS 350 student, present. Niisii is from the Haida Nation of Haida Gwaii off the north coast of BC. She is in her final year of Global Resource Systems (GRS) in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at UBC, studying a combination of marine biology and Indigenous studies topics relating to land and water rights, traditional ecological knowledge, and conservation. Her knowledge of Indigenous food sovereignty comes from her own food system and her upbringing as a Haida woman, but her academic path has been based around the protection of a resource which provides most of the food of the Haida people. She is involved in her community culturally and politically, and intends to return home to contribute to her community's self-governance and sustainable management of the land and sea. Out of school, she is learning weaving and the Haida language from elders and masters at home, is passionate about local, sustainable, traditional food harvesting, processing, (and eating), and works as a resource conservation technician.

The following video is a great introduction to the concept food sovereignty and indigenous food systems from a Coast Salish perspective.

Uncertainty in the Learning Environment

"Without a certain amount of anxiety and risk, there’s a limit to how much learning occurs" (Shulman, 2005, p. 18)

Over the years of LFS 350, a pattern of student experience has emerged. The pattern revolves around cycles of uncertainty and resolution. The first iteration of the cycle begins when you meet your group and find out which community project you have been assigned. This round of uncertainty is resolved (slightly) once you meet with your community partner, prepare your proposal and receive feedback on your plans. Your group then has a few weeks of carrying out the steps identified in your proposal. This is where the next cycle of "uncertainty + resolution" emerges. Now that you have had the opportunity to engage with your community, you realize that elements of your proposal do not coincide with aspects of reality, that is, the context in which your project is meant to unfold. Don't worry, this is perfectly natural and expected. As future professionals in the food system, your career will be defined and "characterized by conditions of inherent and un-avoidable uncertainty" (Shulman, 2005, p. 18). The challenge now is how your group responds to the rising tensions between best laid schemes, group dynamics, university course work-loads, and community expectations. How you resolve theses challenges and emerge with a final product that satisfies the interests and objectives of your group members and community partner is the topic of this session. As stated in Shulman's opening quote, learning occurs when you experience certain amounts of anxiety and risk. Our goal is to help you develop the skills necessary to address these anxieties so that you are confident to rise to the challenges you will face as a professional.

Shulman, L. S. (2005). Pedagogies of uncertainty. Liberal Education, 91(2), 18–25. Retrieved from

Project Scope Change

Scope Change refers to the common reality of all projects - previously designed plans turnout to be lacking in certain ways, or new opportunities emerge once a project is unfolding, and the group must answer the following questions:

  • Is this within the scope of our project?
  • Is this opportunity worth pursuing? If so, how will it impact other aspects of the project?
  • Who do we need to include in this conversation to make an informed decision on project change?

Proposals are absolute necessities for having a successful project, but they are written in a state of high uncertainty. It is nearly impossible to predict what we will experience as a project unfolds and project members need to be prepared to continuously reflect on and question initial premises. In tutorial, your TA will guide you through a process of identifying moments of significance in your project so far and strategies for successfully carrying out the remainder of your project activities.

Tutorial Session

Moments of Significant Change

  • Your TA will facilitate an individual and collaborative process of identifying and discussing significant moments that have occurred in your project so far.

The most significant change (MSC) technique (we are referring to it in LFS 350 as Moments of Significant Change) is a form of participatory monitoring and evaluation. It is participatory because all group members are involved both in deciding the sorts of change to be recorded and in analyzing the data. It is a form of monitoring because it occurs throughout the project cycle and provides information to help people manage the project. It contributes to evaluation because it provides data on impact and outcomes that can be used to help assess the performance of a group, or team as a whole. This methodology uses a ‘storied approach’ to collecting and analyzing data. It takes responses to the central question that sounds like ‘During the last month/project so far, in your opinion, what were the most significant changes that took place for you?’, which are often in the form of stories of who did what, when and why – and the reasons why the event was important.

This methodology provide groups an opportunity to reflect on initial goals and expectations about a program/project, share those with other members of the group to draw connections and/or comparisons and then begin to map out a collective story that is comprised of each individual’s story. Facilitating this process at multiple points throughout a program/project provides an opportunity for individual group members, as well as the collective group to check-in and potentially revise goals and expectations.