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2021: Indigenous Food and Economic Systems for Michigan Tribes

Co-Learning Plan - 2021

Authors: Jessica V. Barnes-Najor


This pilot project will expand the work of Wiba Anung, a partnership between the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan and representatives from Michigan State University (MSU). The MSU representatives, Dr. Barnes-Najor and Ms. Saucedo, will lead the research effort in partnership with Mrs. Schulte, Ms. Cameron, and Mrs. Martin from ITC-MI. With the support of this grant, Ms. Saucedo will conduct a Photovoice project to explore community members perceptions of how colonization has disrupted Native food systems, how these disruptions have contributed to economic and health disparities, and how tribes could support a return to locally produced and traditional foods. Using a framework developed in partnership with colleagues at MSU (K. Isaacs & C. Wentworth Fournier), the Wiba Anung team will examine local issues related to the intersections of social, economic, food, and health inequities from the lens of tribal members using Photovoice methodology. 

In addition to this conceptual framework, the proposed project is grounded in community-based participatory research (CBPR) and Tribal-Participatory Research (TPR). CBPR is defined as “systematic inquiry with the participation of those affected by an issue to education and action for social change” (Minkler & Wallerstein, 2003). TPR is similar in concept, but more clearly describes the process of co-generation of knowledge with Native communities (Fisher and Ball, 2003). TPR also recognizes the unique nature of conducting research in sovereign nations within the U.S. borders. These participatory processes allow for unexplored economic and health topics to be conducted in collaboration with Native communities.  

The information gathered will be used by the Wiba Anung team to develop a report that identifies mechanisms to support existing tribally developed infrastructures for including Native and local food production within local tribal economies and ensure that the infrastructures increases community member access to Indigenous and local foods. The team will work directly with the REI University Center team to revise and finalize the Co-learning plan. In addition to the report, the team will develop a document outlining a plan to explicitly connect the Indigenous food-based economic systems with tribal education. This connection will increase utilization of Indigenous food-based economic systems while also increasing family access to healthy foods. The team will share findings with participating tribal administrators and community groups through live presentations upon conclusion of the pilot study. Infographics and videos showcasing findings from the Photovoice project will be shared with community members via social media after the findings have been shared with tribal administrators. The team will ensure all products generated are accessible and Section 508 compliant. 

View the Report