Rachel was born and raised in Prince Rupert, a small coastal town in Northern BC. She is of mixed ancestry; her mother immigrated from Hong Kong in 1978, and from her fathers’ side she is a member of La̱x Kw’alaams, a Ts’msyen Nation (Tsim-she-yan, meaning “Inside the Skeena River”) made up of 9 of the 14 Allied Tribes. La̱x Kw’alaams is located 30km by boat from Prince Rupert, and is derived from the Sm’algya̱x word Laxłgu’alaams which loosely translates to ‘place of the small roses’. She now currently has the privilege of living and working on the unceded ancestral homelands of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, colonially known as Tofino.
Rachel works alongside the 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 and Recreation Council) and NIDA (National Indigenous Diabetes Association), who are actively promoting wellness through a decolonized lens.
She recognizes that diabetes was rare in Indigenous communities prior to the 1940s and that the loss of land, legacy of residential schools, displacement, trauma, and racist policies have contributed to the disproportionate representation of diabetes in Indigenous communities. 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. Traditional foods not only provide nourishment for the body, but also for the mind and spirit through the harvesting and gathering, and connection to culture.
Reclaiming traditional foods and practices is an integral part of the Indigenous food sovereignty movement, which embraces identity and history, sovereignty, traditional ways, and cultural practices. Increasing access to these original foods will not only promote health and wellness in Indigenous communities, including decreasing the rates of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes but will also help us all repair our relationships with the land, plants, and animals which provide us with the food we need.
Honouring that Indigenous Peoples across the world lived in harmony with the land for thousands of years, this space is not intended to come from the perspective of an ‘expert’, but instead a respectful sharing of my learnings.
Her formal education was completed at Griffith University in Australia, graduating with a Bachelors in Biomedical Science in 2007 and a Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics, majoring in Public Health, in 2011. She is currently undertaking a Ph.D. program at the University of British Columbia (UBC) with a focus on food sovereignty, traditional foods, and land-based physical activity.
UBC implemented an Indigenous Strategic Plan in 2020, committing to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and to take a human rights-based approach to their Indigenous strategic framework.
Universities have a history of harm in so-called Canadian (and international) history. Rachel’s greatest and most precious education has been provided to me by community and community members who have generously gifted their knowledge.