Remembering our Past to Influence the Future: A Photovoice Project on Access to Food with Indigenous Peoples Living with HIV/AIDS in Mi’kma’ki

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Purdy, Chelsey
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Mount Saint Vincent University
Introduction: Food systems shape the ways we access and understand food. For Indigenous peoples, access to food and knowledge associated with food continues to be interrupted by colonialism. Those with identities that oppose colonial values and power structures have been impacted most. Namely two-spirit (queer) people and women bear the brunt of impacts, influencing vulnerability to HIV infection and food insecurity (among other outcomes, including violence). The impacts of colonialism have led to various social issues and barriers that impact Indigenous access, control, and values and food systems. The long history of colonization (e.g. since contact) in Mi’kma’ki (the Atlantic provinces and parts of Quebec) has been especially damaging to the land and to local Mi’kmaw food systems. Aim: This project aims to use art (photographs) to generate meaning associated with past, present, and future access to food for Indigenous peoples living with HIV/AIDS in Mi’kma’ki. Methods: Two groups of participantswere recruited: 1) Photovoice participants were Indigenous people living with HIV/AIDS in Mi’kma’ki; 2) Service providers participants worked for an Indigenous-led organization serving Indigenous people living with HIV/AIDS in Mi’kma’ki. Photovoice participants were invited to take photos representing past, present, and future access to food. They were then invited to a group sharing session where they shared the meaning or story behind their photos with other participants (including service provider participants). The medicine wheel was used as a guide for contextualizing photos and prompting discussion among the group to generate/share meaning. One on one sharing sessions were also offered for photovoice participants who wished to remain anonymous. Storytelling Results/Conclusion: Two Photovoice participants and three service provider participants were included. Participants (photovoice and service provider) identified and discussed various topics, experiences, and meanings that were generated from photos representing past, present, and future access to food. Decolonization (returning to the values of our past to reclaim our future) was a consistent theme that emerged from discussion and story sharing prompted by participant photos, using the medicine wheel as a prompt. In addition, reflections on the role of an Indigenous research paradigm are shared, contributing to the growth of Indigenous arts-based research methods.