On October 17, 2014 the Faculty of Land and Food Systems, with support from the UBC First Nations House of Learning, the UBC Department of History, Kloshe Tillicum (Network Environments for Aboriginal Health Research), Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, alumniUBC and the Aboriginal Feast Bowl, hosted the first in a series of Centennial Dialogues on Critical Issues in Land and Food Systems, in recognition of the University of British Columbia’s upcoming centennial (May 2015 – May 2016).
This dialogue, entitled, First Nations’ perspective on history, food, and health (Continuing the Dialogue on Truth and Reconciliation), featured a panel discussion on the aftermath of the Indian Residential School (IRS) System, and specifically, the effect government-sanctioned nutrition experiments performed on children under state care has had on the relationship with food, nutrition, and health for both survivors, and inter-generational survivors of the IRS System.
You can listen to a podcast of the entire event here:
Panelist Jessie Newman has taken the time to provide a reflection on her experiences participating in this event, as they relate to her identity and history:
“I grew up not knowing exactly what residential schools were, but I knew they were not something we talked about. I never asked my grandparents about their experiences because I did not want to bring back those feelings, it seemed like it was something that should be forgotten. However, as I got older, and heard stories from other elders, it became clear that this is something that needs to be talked about. This mass shared trauma must be discussed, not only between survivors to facilitate healing, but to educate all Canadians on this sad episode in our recent history.
Being a panelist in the recent discussion on truth and reconciliation at the Longhouse allowed me to hear firsthand some amazing, passionate stories of experiences at residential school, not only from the other panelists, but also from the audience. It is so uplifting to see how one story inspires the telling of the next. Together we are so much stronger, our voices so much louder, that we can provoke the change required to experience decolonization in the near future. Through residential schools, our spirit may have been broken, but with this continued dialogue, we can begin to improve our overall well-being, and perhaps most importantly our physical health.
The two panels I participated in changed the way I view our relationship with food. I feel like our experiences with starvation in residential school have created a desire for abundance when eating, which has created this epidemic of obesity and diabetes within our communities. Obviously, our health concerns are multi-faceted, but our shared experience has created a ripple effect, which has affected every aspect of our lives. As a student of science, I also look at the experience as one which may have altered our DNA, predisposing First Nations to poor health. Whatever the cause and effect, I am hopeful and excited to empower the people of my community to take control of their health.”
A description of the panel, and information about our moderator, Dean Rickey Yada, and our panelists is provided below.
Shortly after WWII, when knowledge about nutrition was still sparse, scientists in Canada took advantage of Aboriginal children in Indian Residential Schools (IRS) by using them as unknowing research subjects to investigate the effects of different diets and withholding dietary supplements. Evidence of these government-sanctioned experiments was recently published by food historian and UBC History alumnus Ian Mosby, and received widespread media attention across Canada. Now under the spotlight, attempts have been made to reconcile these past actions, provide support to survivors who were subjects in the experiments, and find ways to move toward a more civilized society for everyone in Canada.
The aftermath of these experiments still has an effect today in the lives of IRS survivors and inter-generational IRS survivors. Join us for a panel discussion about this dark era in Canadian history. Find out how UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems is working to address issues such as access to healthy food, food sovereignty, traditional food, food security for all and land stewardship.
Rickey Yada BSc ’77, MSc ’80, PhD ’84 — Dean, Faculty of Land and Food Systems (effective October 1, 2014)
Dr. Yada received his B.Sc. (Agriculture) in 1977, and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. (Food Science) in 1980 and 1984, respectively, all from The University of British Columbia. He commenced his professional research and teaching career at the University of Guelph, where he has since served as Deputy Chair and Chair of the Department of Food Science (1995-2000) and Assistant Vice-President Research for Agri-Food Programs (2000-2001), and later helped create the new Food Institute, for which he has served as Scientific Director since 2013. In the interim, Dr. Yada held the position of Scientific Director of the Advanced Food and Materials Canada Network (AFMNet), Networks of Centres of Excellence, Canada, from 2003-2010. Within these leadership roles he has gained significant senior management experience as a member of the senior management teams at the Department and University levels, and in multidisciplinary and external collaborations.
Ian Mosby, BA ’03 — Postdoctoral Fellow, L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History, McMaster University
Ian Mosby is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the L.R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History at McMaster University. The publication of his article “Administering Colonial Science: Nutrition Research and Human Biomedical Experimentation in Aboriginal Communities and Residential Schools, 1942-1952” in the summer of 2013 brought renewed attention to the terrible legacy of Canada’s Indian residential school system and received widespread international media attention. This article is part of a larger research project examining the ways in which food, hunger, and the science of nutrition were used as tools of Canadian colonial policy during the middle decades of the twentieth century. His first book, Food Will Win the War: The Politics, Culture and Science of Food on Canada’s Home Front was published by UBC Press in May 2014.
Eduardo Jovel, MSc ’96, PhD ’02 — Director, Indigenous Research Partnerships; Associate Professor, Faculty of Land and Food Systems
Professor Jovel’s research interests include ethnobotany, mycology, natural product chemistry and Aboriginal health. He is especially concerned with organismal and chemical diversity and their intersection with human and environmental health. He is interested in Indigenous peoples’ worldviews and their use of ecosystem resources to maintain health and wellness, particularly plants and fungi used in traditional medicine.
In the last 10 years, Eduardo has taken an active role in Aboriginal health research, including Indigenous medicinal systems, food security, environmental health, research ethics, and Indigenous research methodologies. Through his research program, he has addressed health issues affecting Aboriginal people (e.g. environmental contaminants in traditional foods; impact of indoor moulds in Aboriginal housing). He strives to integrate interprofessional research practices and education, and merge Indigenous knowledge traditions and Western academic disciplinary positions and cultural contexts, while maintaining academic rigor. By doing so, he embraces values of respect, tolerance and diversity in his research and education involvement.
Dawn Morrison — Research Associate, Indigenous Community Engagement
Dawn’s Secwepemc heritage along with her technical and practical background in horticulture, ethnobotany, and Indigenous community development has led to her lifetime passion of health and healing in the context of Indigenous food sovereignty and eco-cultural restoration. Dawn currently works as a Research Associate with the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Southwest BC Bioregional Food Systems Design and Planning Project (leading Indigenous Community Engagement). Dawn is the founder and Chair for the BC Food Systems Network Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty and works as a leader and/or associate on various other Indigenous land, culture or ecology related projects. Dawn is a published author and has travelled extensively to learn, share, coordinate and facilitate food sovereignty related discussions, forums, conferences and research projects in Indigenous communities in BC and beyond.
Jessie Newman — B.Sc. Student, UBC Dietetics Major, Food, Nutrition and Health Program
Jessie is from Skidegate, Haida Gwaii and a member of the Gak’yaals Kiigawaay clan within the Haida Nation. She is currently a Dietetics student in the Food, Nutrition & Health program in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems and is completing her fifth year of study interning with the Island Health Authority.
As a Registered Dietitian, she hopes to reduce the incidence of health-related diseases affecting the people of her community, rather than trying to correct it in the future. She is deeply committed to promoting traditional foods, as she feels they form an important connection between the health, culture, and identity of her people.