Food security is a pressing issue for indigenous communities in the Northwest Territories. Access to traditional food sources is threatened by factors such as climate change, and store-bought food is often expensive and out of reach for isolated communities.
Researcher: Molly Stollmeyer, research assistant, Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (2018-present); MA candidate, Political Economy, Carlton University (2018-present)
Collaboration plays an important role in fostering local food systems in the North. Leading to this graduate work, I worked alongside staff from Dechita Naowo, Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN) organizing the annual Fall Harvest Fair. This year’s change in location was significant as it brought Yellowknife residents together with both YKDFN communities, Ndilo and Dettah, on their common ground along the Yellowknife River. The fair has its roots with the Yellowknife gardening community, and this was the fourth year that EN and WLU collaborated with YKDFN in celebration of local food and harvest.
I also helped to facilitate a Supper Club hosted at Hope’s Haven and Centre for Northern Families through a collaboration with the Yellowknife Farmers Market and Anti-Poverty Coalition. I offered support to a newly formed NWT Food Network, by digging up archived agricultural records to find evidence of the immense capacity for agriculture across the territory. I have worked to foster collaboration between multiple actors including research institutions, Indigenous community programs, not-for-profit organizations, public markets, food producers and many more.
Researcher: Carla Johnston, PhD candidate (2018-present), MA (2016-2018)
My research includes the governance of sustainable food systems in northern Canada using Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodology to work directly with civil society groups to create meaningful actions that help them reach their goals. I partnered with Ecology North to develop the Northwest Territories (NWT) Food Network, a collaboration of food system actors and community leaders that seeks to nurture and promote food systems in the NWT by creating a collaborative food culture that honours northern ecosystems and values.
This work is an extension of my Master's research at Carleton University that worked with the Yellowknife Food Charter Coalition to make the case for a local food strategy with the City of Yellowknife using a food systems approach. A food systems approach reflects the awareness of how actions by one group in the system affects other groups and includes the coordination and collaboration of actors throughout the food chain, including government decision-makers, to create integrated solutions. This engagement has included working with the Food Charter Coalition to establish their research needs relating to community-led policy initiatives.
Researcher: Michelle Malandra, MA (2018–present)
Supervisors: Alex Latta and Andrew Spring (Laurier)
In response to the food security challenges in Canada's north, community gardens are being introduced into many communities to fill food access gaps. Three years after the establishment of a community garden in Kakisa, my research evaluated the impact using participatory action research methods to prioritize community members’ needs and interests. My work created an opportunity for community members to reflect on the impact of their garden, celebrate its successes, and identify barriers limiting production and participation. The community views the garden as a tool for self-sufficiency in their food system.
Participants noted the impacts of climate change on their traditional food sources, describing the garden as a useful adaptation to these changes. The community identified increasing the volume of food production as a priority, with capacity building as a critical factor. For Kakisa, this capacity building includes developing community members’ knowledge of food production, preservation, and composting techniques. While similar community gardens have been initiated across the NWT, their impact and cultural relevance for Indigenous communities has not been well documented.
Research: Neomi Jayaratne, MES (2018–present)
Supervisor: Andrew Spring (Laurier)
Communities in the NWT rely on the land as the basis of their food system and livelihoods. As climate change is having negative impacts on the lands, waters and animals, communities need to continually adapt to these changes. I am interested in creating space for youth and elder interactions on the land to promote intergenerational transfer of skills and traditional knowledge. I am also interested in using mapping technologies to share information and traditional knowledge of land conditions (past and present) to promote adaptation and harvester safety near Kakisa, NWT.