Good Words, Good Food, Good Mind

Restoring Indigenous Identities and Ecologies through Transformative Learning


  • Keith Williams First Nations Technical Institute and St Francis Xavier University
  • Suzanne Brant First Nations Technical Institute



Transformative Learning, Food Systems, Three Sisters, Collectivist, Indigenous Higher Education, Decolonization, Individualist, Relationality, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)


Each year, more interdisciplinary food-related pro­grams are offered at Turtle Island colleges and uni­versities. First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI), an Indigenous postsecondary institution located on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ontario, is in the process of developing an Indigenous food systems undergraduate degree program. This article shares our thoughts regarding education for food system transformation at FNTI. Transformative learning theory (Mezirow, 2000) presents a framework for adult learning with the potential to effect food sys­tem change. Our paper examines this theory con­sidering traditional Haudenosaunee teachings and contemporary thought. Despite the potential for food system transformation, transformative learn­ing theory—grounded in Western thought—can not lead to a truly decolonized food system because it offers the Indigenous learner little to rebuild that which was deconstructed. Although transformative learning theory and Haudenosaunee ways of knowing are incompatible, transformative learning could help Indigenous learners to chal­lenge implicit colonial narratives as part of the pro­cess of decolonization. Transformative learning theory may also have value for cultivating allies in non-Indigenous contexts. We are designing our Indigenous food systems program according to traditional Haudenosaunee principles such as ka’nikonhri:io (good mind), and we will employ talking circles, common to many Indigenous nations. We suggest that a food system pedagogy, based on traditional teachings and principles from specific Indigenous nations, is the only authentic route to a decolonized and equitable food system.

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Author Biographies

Keith Williams, First Nations Technical Institute and St Francis Xavier University

Special Projects Advi­sor, First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI); and Ph.D. can­di­date, St. Francis Xavier University

Suzanne Brant, First Nations Technical Institute




How to Cite

Williams, K., & Brant, S. (2019). Good Words, Good Food, Good Mind: Restoring Indigenous Identities and Ecologies through Transformative Learning. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 9(B), 131–144.



Indigenous Food Sovereignty Peer-Reviewed Papers