My name is Rachel Dickens and I am a mixed-ancestry Indigenous woman. I am a member of the La̱x Kw’alaams Band, a Ts’msyen Nation located 30km by boat from Prince Rupert where I was born and raised. I am a lover of food and actively engage with Indigenous food systems, through harvesting, cooking, preserving, trading, eating and sharing, in both my personal and professional life. As a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, I am able to work alongside the nuučaan̓uł (Nuu-chah-nulth) peoples, with the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, on the unceded and ancestral homelands of the ƛaʔuukʷiʔatḥ (Tla-o-qui-aht) First Nation. As coastal First Nations who have inhabited the northwest coast since time immemorial, we share a deep connection to our traditional food systems, grounded in love and care for what nourishes us.
I am also 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 all actively promoting wellness through a decolonized lens. I also work with non-Indigenous organizations, including Diabetes Canada and the British Columbia Ministry of Health, to address oppressive ideologies that continue to burden Indigenous health.
As a Ph.D. Candidate at UBC in Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems, my research will seek to understand how Indigenous food system engagement can promote diabetes support, care, and resiliency for individuals, families and communities. Through advocating for Indigenous food sovereignty and social justice, I hope to demonstrate how wellness is embedded within our reciprocal relationships with our food systems, while simultaneously dismantling colonial and anti-Indigenous racist ideologies that impact Indigenous peoples’ ability to access and engage with traditional food systems. My research will also embed diabetes care within Indigenous health frameworks, moving away from individualistic, biomedical definitions of health, to foster empowerment and self-determination within diabetes care for Indigenous Peoples.
The intention of my work is to support those living with diabetes and work to prevent diabetes for our future generations. Along with recipes featuring Indigenous foods, I will also share recipes for some of our common meals and snacks that I have adapted to be diabetes-supportive. I have also included some resources that I have supported, and some of my favourite Indigenous resources for those looking to expand their understanding of Indigenous relations in Canada.