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Food is our First Medicine…


Native American Indian people have always said that food is our first medicine; it heals us, makes us grow and it gives us life. Food is our energy, a life force and a healing medicine.

It is widely known, as well as being taught in many colleges, that up to 80 per cent of the food we eat today came from the Americas (North, Central and South) – not only the bean, squash and corn but many, many other foods too. Native American Indian people have always lived with the land not just off the land, and food is a natural part of life; it provides.

Native American Indians were and still are hunters, gatherers and farmers who have survived millennia; it was never for profit or gain. It was for all the people.

We were taught as children never to over-pick a medicine plant, to never over-hunt an area. In doing this we insured that food and medicines would be abundant for many years to come. When we hunted, we did selective hunting.

When we gathered, we picked sparingly, we spaced out our picking. It was only one type of herb, or medicine food at a time. Even before we picked that medicine from Mother Earth we made an offering of tobacco or another gift, along with a prayer that had to be given first, before we could pick that medicine, gather that food, or hunt.

We took only what we needed. Our children were taught through our legends and stories, seated around many camp fires for centuries, that food is sacred; it must be respected and never wasted. Many of our stories teach us to never leave food out all night. We were taught how to respect the spirit of that animal or plant that has sacrificed its life for us.

These are the old ways I grew up with, taught by a few key elders. One was Peter O’Cheese an elder of my people who I lived with for some years. He taught me many of our ways. He died about 15 years ago at 114 years old. My great-grandmother died in 1968 at 107 years old. These old people helped raise me as a child. In the summer I often lived in a tent or a log cabin with my grandmother, while my older brother and sisters where in Indian residential school.

As a teenager I lived in Smallboy’s Camp in the Canadian Rocky Mountains with the late Chief Smallboy who was a great man and a wise elder who I knew personally. Traditionally, North American Indian people were taught that all living things are related here on Mother Earth and we are all part of each other and what we eat is also part of us too.

Our stories often told us of the old ways. We in turn re-lived these ways by sharing our story of our own personal hunt or how an animal came to us.  Even my own mother told me a story of how a bear showed my grandmother as a child the way back home to their camp, when she was lost. I also have several personal stories too. We were taught to never kill without a reason, and often food was the only reason to kill a plant or an animal.

These are amazing stories of communication with the animals. Our relations taught us what to eat and what not to eat. If a bird or other animals would not eat a certain berry we should not eat that poisonous berry either.

There has always been a spiritual bond between man and nature. As a Native American Indian, I have seen many things that I now must share but only in a good way.  We all know this world is not fair but it is still a beautiful world – if one lives right, eats right and does right to all relations, even the human ones. We are all related in this web of life, we all breathe the same air and live together on Mother Earth. We can find balance and our place in this world when we live this way, respecting all our relations.

There have always been natural cures, real cures and they should be shared with all people in a good way. We must help each other, teach each other how to live right, how to eat right and what is good for each of us because we are all related and have the same Mother Earth.

In healing others we also heal ourselves and there are those today who do not want a Native American Indian to share our healing ways and stories. So I share only the good. Don’t let others stop you from healing each other or from me sharing these good ways for all people.