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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Naammaktunga (“I am well”)! Feeding families and people-food relationships in Kugluktuk, Nunavut : exploring what the lenses of food sovereignty and Indigenous resilience can offer to food system governance Klady, Rebecca


Despite extremely high costs of living, many people in small, remote communities in the Canadian Arctic appear to be successfully feeding their families. In academic and policy literatures, the food security lens has contributed important knowledge about hunger in the north; however, its emphasis on deficits and problems risks overlooking enabling mechanisms of people-food relationships. Lenses (and their underlying worldviews) have been shown to shape food system governance, including responses to food-related phenomena such as hunger. By exploring the capacities of different lenses (food security, food sovereignty, Indigenous resilience) to characterise key aspects of people-food relationships, this in-depth ethnographic research examines and illustrates their potential impacts on northern food system governance. In order to achieve this, I developed a grassroots, holistic understanding of people-food relationships in the hamlet of Kugluktuk, Nunavut using a modified grounded theory approach. Three key overarching themes emerged: identity, living in relation and power/resources. Individual/collective wellbeing is at the heart of these themes. Food nourishes a sense of ‘self’ and identity, which is foundational to living in relation through (food) sharing, being on the land together, visiting and knowledge transmission. Identity and relationships are shaped by participation in power systems (e.g. local/external institutions) and control of resources (e.g. food, livelihood, governance). The lenses under investigation were then applied to emergent themes, revealing that Indigenous resilience was most capable of representing these. This is the first study of its kind in Nunavut, with several important research findings. Northern food system governance may benefit by continuing to enhance community-level decision-making authority, and acknowledging/enabling peoples’ abilities to successfully feed their families and foster individual/collective wellbeing. Continued focus on mitigating factors –what enables – will likely benefit future food-related policy practice and research, and help recognise and support the strengths, resiliencies and wellbeing of northerners. The complexity and nuance of people-food relationships necessitates consideration of appropriate food lenses, such as those informed by Indigenous and wellbeing practices (e.g. living in relation, reciprocity, occupancy) and scholarship, as well as how these are interpreted (e.g. user perspectives), in order to further enhance northern food system governance.

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