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New course on Indigenous food sovereignty

June 1, 2020

Charlotte Coté (American Indian Studies) received a course development grant for a new course on Indigenous food sovereignty in our cross-border region. The Center for Global Studies awarded Charlotte Coté a $2,000 grant in summer 2019 to develop a new course on Indigenous food sovereignty. The course, AIS 380: Indigenous Food Sovereignty, was offered spring quarter 2020 and was filled to capacity.

The class examined the concept of food sovereignty in Canada and the United States and was positioned within an Indigenous framework of decolonization and cultural revitalization. It examined how colonialism has undermined Indigenous relationships to our homelands and the plants and animals that sustained and nourished Indigenous communities, leading to health disparities and inability to access traditional and nutritious foods. The course also explored how Indigenous peoples in Canada and the United States have “Indigenized” the food sovereignty concept, emphasizing cultural responsibilities in restoring these relationships through the revitalization of Indigenous foodways and traditional ecological knowledge systems.

This is the first class in the Department of American Indian Studies that focuses on Indigenous food sovereignty and the revitalization of Indigenous foodways. In recent years there has been a growth in food studies in general, and in Indigenous food studies in particular, as more research is being conducted on the connections and intersections of traditional foods, colonialism, health, and wellness in Indigenous communities globally. This class fills a void in the department’s teaching curriculum around Indigenous health and wellness issues.

The class will be taught every year in spring quarter so that it will connect with the annual Living Breath wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ” Indigenous Foods and Ecological Knowledge Symposium that Charlotte coordinates the first week of May. As part of the class students will be invited to attend and/or volunteer at the Living Breath event where they will engage with Indigenous peoples and learn about Indigenous food sovereignty initiatives in Canada and the United States.

Charlotte Coté has dedicated her personal and academic life to creating awareness around Indigenous health and wellness issues, taking an active role in working with Indigenous peoples and communities to address health disparities through the revitalization of traditional foodways and ancestral ecological knowledge. She is the author of numerous publications including Spirits of Our Whaling Ancestors. Revitalizing Makah and Nuu-chah-nulth Traditions, which raises issues concerning Indigenous self-determination, eco-colonialism and food sovereignty.