Rachel Dickens is an Indigenous Dietitian who works to supports those living with diabetes while and in preventing diabetes through traditional food system engagement. She is from Prince Rupert and is of mixed ancestry; her mother is first-generation to these homelands, immigrating from Hong Kong in 1978; on her fathers’ side she is a member of La̱x Kw’alaams Band, a Ts’msyen Nation located 30km by boat from Prince Rupert. Rachel currently has the privilege of living and working on the unceded and ancestral homelands of the ƛaʔuukʷiʔatḥ / Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, which is colonially known as Tofino.
Rachel works alongside the nuučaan̓uł / Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples as a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and is currently employed by the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. She is grateful for the opportunity to work with other Indigenous-led organizations, including ISPARC (Indigenous Sports, Physical Activity and Recreation Council), BCCAFC (BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres) and NIDA (National Indigenous Diabetes Association), who are actively promoting wellness through a decolonized lens. She also works with non-Indigenous organizations including Diabetes Canada and the Ministry of Health to educate healthcare professionals on the necessity and urgency of a decolonized diabetes approach.
With the understanding that colonialism is the direct cause of diabetes, through trauma inflicted by land dispossession, poverty, residential schools and child welfare legislation, and the imposition of a colonial food system and sedentary lifestyle through surveillance and land governance, she believes we can begin to make change. Her work privileges and asserts the power of Indigenous Knowledge, unfolding a resistance rooted in the history of colonization, racism and oppression, a shared experience amongst all Indigenous Peoples. As an advocate for food sovereignty and social justice, she hopes to raise awareness around and dismantle some of the colonial and anti-Indigenous racist policies that impact Indigenous peoples’ access to traditional foods and health trajectories. Rachel believes that once we are able to embed diabetes care within Indigenous health frameworks and move away from individualistic, biomedical definitions of health, we can overcome the burden of diabetes in our People.