Good Words, Good Food, Good Mind
Restoring Indigenous Identities and Ecologies through Transformative Learning
Keywords:Transformative Learning, Food Systems, Three Sisters, Collectivist, Indigenous Higher Education, Decolonization, Individualist, Relationality, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)
Each year, more interdisciplinary food-related programs are offered at Turtle Island colleges and universities. First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI), an Indigenous postsecondary institution located on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ontario, is in the process of developing an Indigenous food systems undergraduate degree program. This article shares our thoughts regarding education for food system transformation at FNTI. Transformative learning theory (Mezirow, 2000) presents a framework for adult learning with the potential to effect food system change. Our paper examines this theory considering traditional Haudenosaunee teachings and contemporary thought. Despite the potential for food system transformation, transformative learning theory—grounded in Western thought—can not lead to a truly decolonized food system because it offers the Indigenous learner little to rebuild that which was deconstructed. Although transformative learning theory and Haudenosaunee ways of knowing are incompatible, transformative learning could help Indigenous learners to challenge implicit colonial narratives as part of the process of decolonization. Transformative learning theory may also have value for cultivating allies in non-Indigenous contexts. We are designing our Indigenous food systems program according to traditional Haudenosaunee principles such as ka’nikonhri:io (good mind), and we will employ talking circles, common to many Indigenous nations. We suggest that a food system pedagogy, based on traditional teachings and principles from specific Indigenous nations, is the only authentic route to a decolonized and equitable food system.
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