Catherine Etmanski, Editor
Sense Publishers’ International Issues in Adult Education Series
Publication year: 2016

Fishing for Change:  A Pedagogy of Native Food Sovereignty

by Tristan Reader and Terrol Dew Johnson


One cliché seems to guide the popular understanding of popular education and capacity building: Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. A critical examination of this overused trope, however, reveals a much more textured understanding of the role of empowering education that is currently emerging from the movement to build food sovereignty within Indigenous communities. This article introduces the socio-political context of Native education and explores the resulting historical trauma and loss of food sovereignty that deeply impacts indigenous communities to this day. The New Generation of O’odham Farmers program and its approach to transformative education provides a sharp contrast to this boarding school past. Based upon the experience of the Tohono O’odham community, we define a set of pedagogical principles and processes that can be used in Indigenous communities across North America and beyond:

  • Provide technical knowledge and practical skills for the production, processing, distribution and consumption of food;
  • Teach the skills of critical thought and empower people to conduct social analysis;
  • Develop the skill of systems thinking in examining social, economic, cultural and ecological contexts;
  • Consider the appropriate scale for projects, food systems and economies; and
  • Explore the appropriate relationship between food sovereignty and global food systems.