Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Andrew Spring

Advisor Role


Second Advisor

Alex Latta

Advisor Role

Co-supervisor & Committee Member


Rates of food insecurity in Canada’s northern Indigenous communities are at levels that should constitute an emergency. Dominant explanations for these high rates of food insecurity often ignore the ongoing impacts of colonization and over-emphasize individual choices and nutritional guidelines developed by outsiders. The importance of holistic community health is ignored, along with the cultural and social values and practices that support community health and well-being, including traditional food systems. As the acute impact of climate change in the North threatens traditional food access, a shift toward an Indigenous food sovereignty approach in health and food policy is needed. With an emphasis on decolonization and prioritizing Indigenous ways of knowing, this approach supports communities pursuing self-determined food systems.

The community of Kakisa in the Northwest Territories has a hybrid food system primarily comprised of traditional food and market food, with a small amount of produce from their community gardens supplementing their food needs. As their access to traditional food sources are increasingly strained due to environmental and social changes, reliance on market food is prominent in Kakisa. The community sees small-scale food production as an important step towards increasing their access to fresh produce during part of the year, and in turn, their resilience in the face of changing conditions.

This investigation into the goals, successes, and barriers for growing food in Kakisa was undertaken in 2018. Using a Participatory Action Research approach that was informed by Indigenous methodologies, this research evaluated the community gardening project to produce an action plan for the future of growing food in Kakisa. Data gathered through interviews and participant observation was examined using a narrative approach to inductive analysis. The themes that emerged showed that, for the residents of Kakisa, successful local food production is driven by community participation and contributes to their self-sufficiency while taking care of the land and community. The application of an Indigenous food sovereignty framework revealed how Kakisa’s pursuit of self-determination can overcome the limitations of using a southern model of community gardening in a northern, Indigenous community; however, current food system policies remain a barrier to this pursuit.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season