Session 8 – Indigenous Food Sovereignty, Colonialism + Food


  • 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 group will have time to work on your project.


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.
  • Articulate personal and group moments of significance in your CBEL project so far.
  • Collaboratively design strategies for successfully completing your project based on the discussion of personal moments of significant change.

Key Terms + Concepts

  • Indigenous food sovereignty
  • Moments of Significant Change

Required Readings + Resources

Since the fall of 2016, we have been fortunate to have 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.

In the Fall of 2017, we were fortunate to have Niisii Guujaaw present, who was at the time a student in LFS 350. Niisii is from the Haida Nation of Haida Gwaii off the north coast of BC. She graduate in May 2018 with a degree in 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.

In 2018-2020, we were fortunate to have two members of the Gitxsan Nation present, Mike Wesley and Tatyana Daniels. Mike is enrolled in the dietetics program. Mike was born and raised on Gitxsan Territory which is located in northern B.C. His knowledge of Indigenous food sovereignty has been shaped from his life experience of growing up on Gitxsan territory and interacting with the traditional foods in his youth. Mike hopes to learn more about his traditional foods and incorporate them into addressing many health issues that are prevalent in his home community. Diseases such as obesity, cancer, and cardiovascular disease are some of the diseases that Mike would like to reduce in his home community. Another issue Mike would like to address is food insecurity throughout the community.

Tatyana is also in the dietetics program. She grew up in the community of Gitanmaax. Growing up on a rural reserve in northwestern BC, she spent summers with her grandmother gathering and preserving traditional foods. She enjoyed learning the different preservation techniques, but was more interested in what the food did for the body. On her reserve, she witnessed many people suffering from diseases that could be considered diet-related. As she grew older, she realized that these diseases were not unique to her community, but were prevalent within the Indigenous population. This may be where her initial interest in nutrition and the use of combining traditional food with the modern day diet to improve Indigenous health had stemmed from. Since then, her desire to promote positive change and improve Indigenous health in BC through the incorporation of traditional foods, nutrition education, and culturally-sensitive consultations, has only been deepened.

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

Tutorial Session

Project work party!