The Indigenous Food Circle: Reconciliation and Resurgence through Food in Northwestern Ontario


  • Charles Z. Levkoe Lakehead University
  • Lana Ray Lakehead University
  • Jessica Mclaughlin Indigenous Food Circle



Food Policy Council, Food Security, Food Sovereignty, Fort William First Nation, Indigenous Food Circle, Robinson Superior Treaty 1850, Self-Determination, Social Justice, Thunder Bay


Food policy councils provide a forum to address food systems issues and a platform for coordinated action among multisectoral stakeholders. While diverse in structure, most councils aim to develop democratic and inclusive processes to evaluate, influence, and establish integrated policy and programs for healthy, equitable, and sustainable food systems. The Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy (TBAFS) is one such example that pro­motes regional food self-reliance, healthy environ­ments, and thriving economies through the implementa­tion of research, planning, policy, and program development. Despite its success, the TBAFS had no formal engagement from the Indigenous com­munities that make up almost 13% of Thunder Bay’s population (the highest urban Indigenous population in Canada). Recognizing this gap, in 2016, members of the TBAFS began to develop partnerships with regional Indigenous leaders and organizations to better understand the barriers and opportunities to engagement. The result was the establishment of the Indigenous Food Circle, which aimed to reduce Indigenous food insecurity, increase food self-determination, and establish meaningful relationships with the settler population through food. In this paper, we trace the history of the Indigenous Food Circle. Drawing on theories of decolonization and Indige­nous food sover­eignty, we argue that the Indige­nous Food Circle requires more than simply good­will from TBAFS members and other allied organizations. It demands confronting our histories and engaging in action that transforms current pat­terns of relations. It means embracing the discom­fort that comes with recognizing the prevalence of settler colonial­ism and developing respectful and just relation­ships followed by action. We conclude with some suggestions for continuing this work and the opportunity to experiment with food as a tool for reconciliation and resurgence.

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Author Biographies

Charles Z. Levkoe , Lakehead University

Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Food Systems, Department of Health Sciences

Lana Ray, Lakehead University

Department of Indigenous Learning

Jessica Mclaughlin, Indigenous Food Circle




How to Cite

Levkoe, C., Ray, L., & Mclaughlin, J. (2019). The Indigenous Food Circle: Reconciliation and Resurgence through Food in Northwestern Ontario. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 9(B), 101–114.



Indigenous Food Sovereignty Peer-Reviewed Papers