Tribal Members Stay Healthy with Traditional Food and Medicine

Tulalip traditional foods class

Tulalip tribal members learned how traditional plants can keep them healthy through the winter, and took home some healing tea and honey from a class offered by the Diabetes Prevention and Care Program in November.

Participants also prepared a cedar steam by cutting boughs into a bowl, covering with hot water, and breathing under a towel. Cedar repels bacteria and viruses, while stimulating white blood cells and promoting immune function. The steam relieves congestion.

The class was part of a series taught by traditional foods educators Elise Krohn and Elizabeth Campbell, in collaboration with Lower Elwha Klallam storyteller Roger Fernandes. Participants received a Feeding 7 Generations Salish cookbook produced by Krohn and Valerie Segrest, who coordinates the Muckleshoot Tribe’s Food Sovereignty Project.

In addition to medicinal plants, lessons focused on traditional foods such as deer, elk, berries, tea, salmon and shellfish.

The goal is to connect food education with traditional teachings about the land and environment, said Veronica Leahy, Diabetes Care and Prevention coordinator.

“We weave everything together,” she said. “It’s our health and it’s all connected. And part of that is teaching about feeding the seven generations; learning to live with the spirit, diversifying your diet, eating more plants, traditional and wild foods, how we cook and eat with good intention and giving back to the land.”

Multiple generations of families attended the classes. At the end of the winter remedies lesson, tribal members mixed a cold and flu tea from elderflower, elderberry, peppermint, yarrow, licorice root and rosehips. Others strained an herbal honey that had been cooking throughout the lesson in the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy kitchen.

Tulalip’s Diabetes Prevention and Care Program is a culturally grounded, comprehensive program for the treatment of diabetes and promotion of long-term holistic health. In May, it received the Portland Area Director’s Award at the Department of Health and Human Services Indian Health Service Recognition of Excellence ceremony.

Photo: Tulalip Tribal members Shana Simpson, Lynette Frye and Annie High Elk mix a cold and flu remedy tea at a Traditional Medicines class taught by Elise Krohn (in red) and offered by the tribe’s Diabetes Prevention and Care Program. K. Neumeyer