TRADITIONAL FOODS AND MEDICINES
The end of the class celebration has finished . We have been learning modern methods of using our Traditional medicines through the Northwest Indian College. We have made salves and creams. Today we made a powerful incense out of cedar, sweetgrass, sage and other medicines. My backpack smells so good right now.
These kinds of classes weren’t available when I was a student. I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it as much as I do today.
My cousin John was invited to do the prayers for the class. He plays prayer songs on his flute. His opening prayer must have been heard because everything went perfectly.
We are considered leaders in the Traditional Foods movement because we are going into our eighth year. Our dinners are to reintroduce Traditional Foods back into our diets. We also give thanks to those who give up their lives that we might live.
I was invited to speak about what the two year long project had been about. All sagas start with The Creation Story.
The trees and plants were the first people. This was good, but something was missing. The Creator then made the animals and they were The People. Still something was missing. The Creator then made all that is Spirit. Everything was good, but still not quite right.
The Creator reached into the earth and pulled out the red clay. He fashioned it the way he wanted it. There is a rock with a deep impression along the Elwha River. It is now covered by a dam.
The Creator filled it with water. He bathed each creation in the water. He lifted it to each direction so all existence would know it. He breathed life into this new creation. He worked out in each direction from the Elwha River. He placed each new creation where he wanted them. These humans are the new people.
He gave us laws to follow. We were to love one another and take care of one another. We prayed and talked with the Creator. We listened to his teachings.
Everything was good. Then we started forgetting. We stopped praying and listening to the Creator. We stopped loving each other and taking care of each other. We did unspeakable things. The Creator became sorry he made us. He decided to destroy his creations.
Those that still prayed knew of his plan. They got their canoes ready. They gathered food and fresh water.
The rain started. The waters rose and swiftly covered the land. The fresh water became salty and undrinkable as the oceans rose. Most of life was killed as the world flooded.
In the mountains there are accounts of this story. They are carved into the rocks. They tell how many canoes or rafts made it through. They tell how long it rained and how long it took the waters to recede. Our Ancestors documented the animals they saw. They told which families survived.
When this was over there wasn’t enough food for both the animals and the humans. It was decided that they would play a game. The winner would be allowed to eat the loser. Our Ancestors won the game. Today we honor those who still keep their word and give up their lives that we might live.
We were told of a white race of people that were in danger of becoming lost. The Creator said that if they did lose their way they would be sent to us. We were to help them find their way onto the path intended for humans.
The lost ones showed up. They weren’t seeking enlightenment or help. They were filled with the seeds of destruction. They carried diseases that killed us more efficiently than any army.
They didn’t see the value of our resources in the sacredness of life. They counted value by what could be made in their money.
Our People that survived the wars and diseases were forced onto reservations. We were supposed to die there. We didn’t. A few families took our spark of knowledge underground and became secret societies.
Our ceremonies that had guided us through our lives were forbidden to us. Our songs and dances that healed us and Mother Earth were outlawed. We both started dying.
Our chiefs were stripped of power. The new government gave us a new set of laws. Leaders were elected to power not trained for it. Without spiritual training some gave in to the seeds of destruction. Leaders no longer prayed for guidance in each decision. The Creator was now left out of all equations.
Alcohol was introduced to us. It suppressed our need for a connection with our Creator. Later on drugs would do the same. They both suppress our innate knowledge of right and wrong. Our people became unbelievably lost.
Alcohol suffocates our teachings. We forget how to be good people. We don’t see the sacred in each other. Many men have forgotten that they are protectors of The People. They steal power from their wives and children by physical violence and sexual abuse.
Many women have forgotten that they represent Mother Earth. We have forgotten that power and knowledge travel through us. We haven’t always protected and cared for our children as Mother Earth has shown us to do. We haven’t held our men accountable to be the best humans they can be.
We used to hear that children are sacred because they come to us directly from spirit. We are supposed to treat them as sacred beings so they won’t leave us. If life is too hard for them they can choose to die. We don’t hear that teaching anymore.
Tribes will make proclamations that our children are our future. How are we treating our future? Many are physically, emotionally and sexually abused.
These learned behaviors are killing us just as efficiently as smallpox and influenza did. We have strayed far from our correct destiny. We are once again totally lost.
The Creator hasn’t abandoned us though we have forgotten him. He has given us seeds of hope. We just have to find them.
The first was the canoe journeys. It grew from the dream of an elder to see the return of the ocean going canoes. We are taken back to our most basic teachings. We learn that we have to trust and respect each other. We learn to pull together to reach our destination. We have remembered to respect the waters. We see in the oceans the sacredness and power of Mother Earth.
The Creator never abandons us. When everything looks lost and hopeless there will always be one man or one way that will have the knowledge to help.
The Creator said that if we became completely lost he would hide our help in one seed. That seed was one word. It was hidden in one document where no one would think to look. That word was whaling. The document was the Makah Treaty.
The Makah had stopped whaling when white American whalers had hunted the gray whale to near extinction. When the gray whale rebounded the Makah readied for the hunt.
Antiwhalers gathered to stop the Makah. The cowboys and Indians propaganda was fought in the media. The whale hunt was televised as it happened.
In the first light of morning we saw the Makah hunters head out to sea. They closed in on a whale while the antiwhalers slept. Every Native that was awake and watching the early morning news was praying the same prayer. We prayed for the safety and success of the hunters.
We learned the power of prayer. We had found our path home.
Diabetes is the new plague among our people. It is the result of generations of trauma. Our bodies have worn out under all the stress. We have been denied our traditional foods that were given to us for our strength and healing. We are told when we are sick to eat our Traditional foods. It has what our Creator gave us to heal our body, spirit and mind.
When we gather our Traditional foods, again we learn to depend on each other. We learn to respect each other’s talents and abilities. We are hunters, fishermen and gatherers.
Our children feel that they are not needed or are in the way. Many have no one to show them love and kindness. No one teaches them to hunt, fish, or to gather plant foods and medicines for the community.
They have the most strength and energy to contribute to the Tribe. One of the most healing thing we can do is have dinners for our communities. What happens spiritually when we eat together is we all become even.
The Elders who are tired or sick take what they need from the collective energy. Others who are sick take what they need for their healing. Our youth contribute the most strength and energy. In return they get the teachings from our speakers.
We have been given three ways to help ourselves. Is there one more coming?
Is it the unprecedented number of ancestors that are returning to us as new archaeological sites are unearthed? We are learning what we used to be, what we can be.
The Tsewhitzen site had the powdered red clay everywhere. Thousands of years ago we did everything in prayer. The red clay is used for blessing and protection.
The first step in our return to our correct destiny is prayer. We will be back in touch with our Creator. We will be like those who knew enough to ready their canoes and gather food and water before the great flood. We will be the ones to survive the days to come.