New Fulbright Focused on Indigenous Traditional Food Systems

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Jessica Dolan is U of G’s new Fulbright Chair

How climate change affects traditional food systems and food sovereignty of Haudenosaunee communities is the focus of a new Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Studies at the University of Guelph.

Jessica Dolan will work in U of G’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology in the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences (CSAHS) this semester.

“What interested me about coming here is that U of G is famous for food studies, as well as it being close to Six Nations of the Grand River,” said Dolan. “The combination of Indigenous studies and food studies is what attracted me. I’m excited to benefit from the expertise of the scholars here.”

Originally from Vermont, Dolan has conducted most of her research in Haudenosaunee communities, including Six Nations of the Grand River, Onondaga, Akwesasne and Kahnawa:ke.

She’s writing a cultural and scientific field guide to Haudenosaunee ethnobotany – the scientific study of traditional knowledge and customs involving plants and their medical, spiritual and other uses. The field guide, profiling some 75 plants, will be a resource on the ecology and traditional knowledge of common plants and trees in Haudenosaunee communities.

Fulbright Canada Research Chairs allow exceptional scholars and experienced professionals to conduct research and teach on subjects important to partner universities. While carrying out their research, chairholders can  guest lecture in courses and public venues, promote their research and mentor students.

“It is an honour to become part of the Fulbright Scholar international network,” said Dolan, who completed a PhD at McGill University. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to work full-time on research and writing. I am thrilled to participate in the Indigenous studies, anthropology, environment and food studies communities at University of Guelph.”

Prof. Byron Sheldrick, CSAHS associate dean (academic), called Dolan’s research “a great fit” with the college’s strategic initiatives on indigenization and its research strengths in traditional Indigenous approaches to food, nutrition and health.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Dolan will be joining the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences as a Fulbright scholar,” said Sheldrick. “The Fulbright program provides us with the opportunity to bring to campus international experts that strengthen our research and teaching.”

Dolan received the chair because of her cultural and environmental research in collaboration with Indigenous communities, and her intensive examination of museum and archive documents.

“What distinguishes this project is that it involves returning historical information to community members and developing the field guide in collaboration with them,” Dolan said.

For her doctorate , she explored Haudenosaunee environmental knowledge as a distinct philosophy and knowledge system, highlighting how traditional knowledge applies to environmental caretaking in Haudenosaunee communities and how that knowledge could help improve environmental frameworks in Canada and the United States.

Dolan said a challenge for policy-makers and environmental managers is bridging the gap between Western science and Indigenous knowledge to develop best practices in sustainable environmental stewardship. In her book, she aims to integrate science and traditional knowledge into a resource for environmental and food systems education.

Since completing her studies in 2016, she has worked for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne’s Tehotiienawakon Department Environment Program and the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance, and has taught sociology in Vermont.