American science foundation awards $500,000 to food security research in Indigenous communities

A Yupik family eats a meal of salmon in Newtok, Alaska. New research will look at food security issues in Indigenous communities in the North American Arctic as well as Arizona and New Mexico. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
The National Science Foundation, an independent American federal agency, has awarded approximately $500,000 to research food security in Indigenous communities in the Arctic and the southwestern United States.

“It’s very exciting to really solidify connections between the Southwest and Arctic,” Colleen Strawhacker, principal investigator and researcher with the National Snow and Ice Data Center/Cooperative Institute for Research In Environmental Sciences (CIRES), said in a CIRES news release this month.

“This creates the opportunity for these Indigenous communities to have ownership of, and communicate about, their own data and knowledge.”

The new project is titled Networking Indigenous Arctic and U.S. Southwest Communities on Knowledge Co-Production in Data Sciences and will examine how environmental and social change are affecting food security in the North and South.

At the moment, the award is primarily with Alaskan and Canadian partners in the North, and Arizona and New Mexico partners in the South, but the project’s Indigenous partners will decide how the network will evolve, Strawhacker said in an email to Eye on the Arctic.

Incorporating perspectives often missing from research

Indigenous communities are generally underrepresented in scientific research, something the investigators hope to change with the new project by linking such communities with each other.

“These collaborations allow the communities to talk about their specific challenges and successes with securing food in their regions,” the news release said.

“It gives them arena in which to formulate and discuss possible future plans to address these challenges. Once those challenges are identified, those communities will work with one another to identify and build online tools for archiving and accessing critical data, to be used by Indigenous peoples and scientists alike.”

Data sovereignty, the right of Indigenous nations to control data collected from their people and their communities, will also be an important part of the project, “…to ensure knowledge and information held by Indigenous partners are shared and managed in an ethical way,” CIRES said.

Food security in Canada's Arctic
Hunters and from the Arctic Canadian community of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut butcher a muskox and take samples for scientists. Climate change is affecting the health of these animals, an important food source for Inuit in Canada’s Arctic archipelago. (Eye on the Arctic)

Issues around food security in Canada’s remote northern regions are one of the most pressing Arctic issues in the country.

Long distances and the fact that many communities are fly-in only, mean fresh, healthy foods are hard to obtain, and food prices are often up to 10 time more expensive than in the southern part of the country.

Climate change is also increasingly affecting country food, the animals Inuit and First Nations rely on for their main diets.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  How two towns in the Canadian Arctic get their food, Blog by Mia Bennett

Denmark/Greenland: Researchers must be honest with Arctic peoples about food contaminants says doctor, Eye on the Arctic

Finland:  Sami group occupies island in northern Finland to protest fishing rules, Yle News

Norway:  The food crisis in the Far North, Barrents Observer

Russia:  More than 800 000 reindeer to be vaccinated against anthrax in Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Demand ups Sweden’s reindeer meat prices, Radio Sweden

United States:  Food insecurity in Alaska, Alaska Dispatch News



Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

One thought on “American science foundation awards $500,000 to food security research in Indigenous communities

  • Sunday, April 8, 2018 at 02:19

    The 21st. century need to adapt to both changing lifestyle and climatic change in the Arctic.

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