Food Waste to Food Cycle: Listening to Indigenous Voices across Turtle Island

Winner of second place in RAVEN’s Harmony Foundation Essay Prize, Atlanta Grant shares her research on Indigenous food systems in her winning paper.

Atlanta Grant Bio:

Atlanta is an Indigenous Masters (M.A) student in the Institute of Resources, Environment & Sustainability at the University of British Columbia embarking on her research around traditional food systems, knowledge preservation and food waste (or food ‘cycling’). She will be looking at Indigenous food waste practises in hopes of reclaiming autonomy and food sovereignty within our Indigenous communities whilst addressing the need for a restructuring of individual waste practises within our urban environments.

Throughout her undergraduate career Atlanta was involved in assisting Toronto Public Health’s Food Policy teams ‘Public Health of Canada’ report. Interviewing vulnerable populations in the Greater Toronto Area and their accessibility to healthy and affordable food. During this time, she was also accepted by the Centre of Engaged Learning Abroad (CELA) research trip to Belize. Here, she studied with the Mayan communities discovering issues around food sovereignty and Indigenous development the Belizean and Mayan communities continue to experience. It was through these experiences she began to think critically about her own Indigenous community within the Canadian context and ideals surrounding traditional knowledge and our physical environment.

The ‘Berry Picker’ is an essay/storybook that documents my personal journey towards learning about my Indigenous ancestry and reclaiming culture. Two stories are interwoven within the body of this chapter. The first, told through my own poetry and stories, follows a little girl who has berries2 for friends, as they teach her about her Huron-Wendat ancestry and how to honour their teachings of reciprocity and gratitude. The second, making up the bulk of this paper, is noted through my academic journey as a graduate research student, through my studies around Indigenous knowledge (specifically, biocultural heritage), Indigenous food sovereignty and food ‘cycling’.3 The lens of food (Indigenous food histories and sacred/ceremonial teachings) has become a powerful tool of empowerment towards reclaiming culture as I began learning about the complexities of Indigenous knowledge within the parameters of an industrial North American food system, and the current non-relational mindset it supports. This is a living piece as I rediscover who I am as an Indigenous woman. Every letter, every word, a moving river of discovery through the teachings our land creates.

It is our honour to present Altanta’s winning paper here.

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