Indigenous Food Sovereignty

Indigenous Food Sovereignty (IFS) describes Indigenous family and community control over food systems and related challenges/opportunities, re-connection with the land, creation of land- and culture-based interventions and solutions, self-determination (through restoration of control over Indigenous food systems), and the development of new policies to benefit communities within the current political system (Coté, 2016; Shukla et al, 2019).

Reliable access to adequate supplies of food and clean water is a challenge for Indigenous communities in remote northern Saskatchewan due to transportation issues. Sociodemographic factors (low socio-economic status, higher number of occupants within a single household, job loss) and the combined effects of environmental catastrophes such as floods (peak flows in the Churchill river system in the Beauval area and at Lac Île-à-la-Crosse in 2017) and fires (wildfires in 2015), as well as COVID-19 have also been factors(Mercille et al, 2012; Skinner et al, 2014; Coté, 2016).

The objective is to use elements of IFS to develop community-level strategies to produce improved and more sustainable health and wellness outcomes through an implementation science approach.

The research question addressed by this study is: How can improvements in IFS produce better health and wellness outcomes in Indigenous communities? This research proposes an implementation science (IS) approach to identify barriers to IFS during pandemics or natural disasters, as well as to support two communities in each addressing IFS. The development of this project linking the communities of Île-à-la-Crosse and Beauval is facilitated not only based on their geographical locations, but also due to their historical and continuing inter-community friendship and shared approaches to food and other essential land- and water-based resources.

IFS may offer solutions to challenges faced by communities, which include high food prices, limited fruit and vegetable offerings, reduced availability of traditional food due to lack of access and production, environmental and landscape changes that restrict the availability of culturally-based Indigenous food, and food issues linked to poor nutrition and health outcomes (Martens et al, 2016; Cidro et al, 2018; Penner et al, 2019).

IFS is the backbone of all Indigenous food systems, which are linked to health and wellness, guided and informed by tradition. Elders share wisdom, passing knowledge and ways of doing from past to future generations (Shukla et al, 2019).

Food sovereignty is of particular importance in an Indigenous context, as colonization entailed manipulation or suppression of traditional Indigenous hunting practices and the collection of land-based food (Martens et al, 2016). Thus, IFS is a specific policy approach to address underlying issues impacting Indigenous peoples and their right to healthy, culturally significant foods. Re-connections with the land; and the creation of land- and culture-based interventions and solutions to benefit communities within the current political system are central to IFS (Indigenous Food Systems Network, n.d.).