December 2nd, 2021 – Nourishing Community Wellness: Stories of Learning, Connecting and Healing Through Food

The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC), Island Health’s Indigenous Health program and the UBC Learning Circle are hosting a panel of dietitians working in Indigenous Health.

Feature speakers Rachel Dickens (Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council), Jessie Newman (Island Health), Tessie Harris (FNHA), will share their journeys and stories of community wellness.
Moderator Fiona Devereaux (Indigenous Health Cultural Safety) will set the table for the presenters to share and celebrate Indigenous led initiatives in diabetes management, food sovereignty and cultural safety.

Thank you for your interest and participation!

This session’s video is now available for viewing.

Thank you to everyone for your continued interest in our events.

We would like to reiterate that everyone is welcome to our UBCLC sessions.

Our events aim to embody a safe space for everyone of all different backgrounds to have their opinions and voices equally heard.


Date: Thursday, December 2nd, 2021 (PST)
Time: 10 a.m. to 11:30 am


About the Presenters:


Jessie Newman

Jessie is from the Gak’yaals Kiigaway (clan) of K’uuna (Skedans) and a member of the Haida Nation. She is Haida on her maternal side and Heiltsuk and Kwakwaka’wakw on her paternal side. She grew up in Hlgaagilda (Skidegate) and W̓áláqvḷa (Bella Bella), and comes from two fishing families. She was fortunate to have access to many of her ancestral foods in her youth and has always loved how they bring family and community together.
Jessie completed her Dietetics degree from UBC in 2015 and currently holds the position of Indigenous Health Dietitian with Island Health, working with North Island communities towards achieving their wellness goals. This includes supporting Nations in their food sovereignty/security initiatives, as well as diabetes prevention and management. From an early age Jessie understood the healing power of our foods, and feels fortunate that “work” allows continual learning and guidance from community knowledge keepers.


Rachel Dickens

My name is Rachel and I am of mixed ancestry including East-Asian on my mothers’ side and a member of the Lax Kw’alaams Band on my fathers’ side. The name Lax Kw’alaams is derived from Laxłgu’alaams, which means place of the small roses. I was born and raised in Prince Rupert, 30km from Lax Kw’alaams by boat. I now have the privilege of living and working on the unceded and ancestral homelands of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, colonially known as Tofino. I work alongside the Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples as a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and am currently employed by the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. I recognize that diabetes was rare in Indigenous communities prior to the 1940s, and that the loss of land, legacy of residential schools, displacement, trauma, and racist policies have contributed to the disproportionate representation of diabetes in Indigenous communities. As an advocate for food sovereignty and social justice, I hope to raise awareness around and dismantle some of the colonial and anti-Indigenous racist policies that impact Indigenous peoples’ access to traditional foods. Traditional foods not only provide nourishment for the body, but also for the mind and spirit through the harvesting and gathering, and connection to culture. Reclaiming traditional foods and practices as an integral part of the Indigenous food sovereignty movement, which embraces identity and history, sovereignty, traditional ways, and cultural practices. Increasing access to these original foods is key to health promotion, wellness, and chronic disease prevention including type 2 diabetes.


Tessie Harris
My name is Tessie Harris and I am a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator of mixed European ancestry, with Scottish heritage on my father’s side and German on my mother’s side. I was born and raised in England and moved with my family to Canada, to the Okanagan, at age 13. Since then, I’ve lived as an uninvited guest on Syilx territory (Vernon), Kanien’kehá:ka territory (Montreal), and Haida territory (Haida Gwaii) before moving to the unceded territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam Nations (Vancouver) in 2020. I completed the Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Public Health through the Center Of Excellence in Indigenous Health, UBC, in 2020. This past year, I partnered with Indigenous knowledge keepers, health care providers, and academics to create the Nourish Food is Our Medicine Learning Journey – an online educational resource that invites health care professionals and leaders to explore new and different ways of understanding the complex relationships between Indigenous foodways, reconciliation, healing, and health care. I continue my journey of learning, and unlearning, in the Diabetes Educator role with the First Nations Health Authority, acknowledging the responsibility to ensure that care and services center the individual, their culture and identity, while supporting self-determination, food sovereignty and relationship building as pathways towards wellness.

About our Moderator:


Fiona Devereaux

Good day, I am Fiona, white settler of Irish ancestry. I am a daughter, sister, auntie and friend. My parents immigrated to Treaty 6 territory: homelands of Cree, Michif Piyii (Métis), Niitsítpiis-stahkoii ᖹᐟᒧᐧᐨᑯᐧ ᓴᐦᖾᐟ (Blackfoot/Niitsítapi ᖹᐟᒧᐧᒣᑯ), and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Saskatoon). I occupy and benefit off unceded Coast Salish homelands of Ləkʷəŋən Speaking Peoples of Songhees (Ləkʷəŋən) and Esquimalt (Xwepsum) Nations. Before, Canada, BC and Victoria were formed, this place was known as Metulia (Ləkʷəŋən). Ləkʷəŋən means ‘a place to smoke herring.’ I picture the vast amounts of herring being smoked and preserved.   These lands and the environment are foundational to wellbeing. Healthy lands, healthy peoples.

Each day I acknowledge this deep connection and advocacy for the lands, waters and forests. In this, I must bring forward the vast colonial policies that has impacted and shaped the lives of the all Indigenous families here on the island. I commit to learning more, listening deeply, reflecting on my power and privilege. I will continue to take steps to dismantle and disrupt racism within the society. I hope to build relationships with others who want to reflect on our collective responsibility to address these inequities and working towards social justice.

I have been honoured to have a long career working as a dietitianalongside Coast Salish, Kwakwaka’wakw and Nuu-chah-nulth communities. I am a life long learner and have completed two apprenticeships in Herbal Medicines and am currently completing an MSc Social Dimensions of Health on Indigenous Specific Racism. I spend my time with family, friends, hiking, camping, gardening and learning about the plants.

Slán tamall  (Goodbye for now) –Gaeilge (Irish Language)


  • Nourish Food is Our Medicine Learning Journey – website
  • National Indigenous Diabetes Association Gifts Of Our Relations  Original Food Guide Book (PDF) – Site
  • Nuu-Chah-nulth Seasonal Round – PDF  
  • NTC Video on Tee Cha Chitl Diabetes Approach – Video
  • Taking Charge of Type 2 Diabetes with Paul Sam – Article
  • Food is Medicine video series – YouTube Playlist
  • Nourish – Food is Medicine Course and Learning – Website

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