“It wasn’t built for us”
The possibility of Indigenous food sovereignty in settler colonial food bureaucracies
Keywords:Indigenous Food Sovereignty, Food Systems, Food Policy, Land Use Policy, Settler Colonialism, Governance, Consultation and Consent
This article examines the extent to which Indigenous-led food systems and sovereignty goals, frameworks, and priorities are recognized, affirmed, and supported within the agri-food public sector. For this study, we focus on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), but the findings and analysis have implications for settler-Indigenous relations more broadly. First, we situate Indigenous food systems and sovereignties within the context of agri-food bureaucracies in Canada. We then present the research design, which involved 27 interviews with people working within or collaborating with OMAFRA on issues related to agricultural land use, programming, and development, and Indigenous relations and food systems. The findings are categorized into five themes: differing needs, visions, and priorities; land access, conversion, and health; representation; consultation and consent in agri-food programming; capacity building. The findings reveal major gaps in Indigenous representation, leadership, and control, and an absence of Indigenous-led planning and decision-making in the agri-food public sector. The findings further show that non-Indigenous people lack crucial knowledge concerning treaties and Indigenous relationships to land and stewardship, which creates ongoing and significant barriers to reconciliation. We close by discussing key barriers and opportunities for supporting Indigenous food system and sovereignty programming and ways forward for deepening settler knowledge of Indigenous issues and experiences. The perspectives shared in this study are intended to provide food system research, planning, policy, and practice with insights in order to begin to address structural injustices and better support Indigenous food sovereignty.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Sarah Rotz, Adrianne Lickers Xavier, Tabitha Robin
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