Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation

Traditional teachings and modern education working together

For Rod, “Your Health, Our Strength” isn’t just a phrase – it is a healthy, natural space where our people can live free of disease and worry. He believes that everyone must follow the same rules to get to that space. “In order to have strength, we all need to be healthy,” he says.

“If you have one weakness, it comes crumbles.” Rod believes that the vaccine, as modern medicine, can work with traditional Indigenous medicine and protocol to carry us out of this pandemic.

“There are words that my great-grandfather (said) when he took Treaty, ‘Take the good from both cultures and bring those two together. That is what you stand on from this day on. Life, the way it is, is not going to be the same. Our way of life is going to change. It is going to alter. In order for us to retain our strength, we have to remember how we stay strong – how we look at the universe itself. The Creator taught us many things.’”

From an Indigenous point of view, Rod encourages our youth to take their education in the sciences – math and science have long been an aspect of Indigenous medicine and spirituality. Tribes have been harvesting medicinal plants for trade since time immemorial. It is through these practices that we can build a bridge between our history and our future.

Certain tribes were given authority to harvest their own medicines, and when tribes would come together, they would exchange these medicines. “We have to go back and learn that again because that is what is going to help us survive,” he says. “How can we incorporate those ways to make our lives better today? This is why it is important that culture is one of the key things taught from kindergarten to university.”

“It doesn’t mean that you go back and live with your breechcloth – running around out there,” Rod laughs. “It means you can still have a degree, but your thinking has changed in how you look at things.”

For Doreen, being healthy allows her to continue helping her people as a social worker. She has been promoting the vaccine to her relatives and convinced the hesitant among them to take it – something she is very happy about.

Ultimately, it is Doreen’s goal to pass on her knowledge about medicine. During the 1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish Flu), Doreen’s grandfather Frank Letendre buried the victims of the disease. Doreen says her grandfather dug mass graves – he couldn’t keep up. Doreen’s grandmother, meanwhile, harvested and boiled medicine to help the afflicted. Doreen learned a lot about medicine from her grandmother and hopes that young people can use these teachings.

“I wish a lot of young people from our Nation would think about studying medicine,” she says. “I’m encouraging young people to study in that environment, with Mother Earth. I want the young people to learn these ways. When we’re gone, maybe 40 years down the road, they might discover great things – how to cure cancer...even diabetes.”

Doreen is encouraging families and young people to soul search - it’s good to pray, but we also need to take action. “Some people say that prayer is just sitting there, mumbling a whole bunch of good things,” Rod says. “Prayer means you’re going to physically do something – taking the best out of your mind, body, spirit and wellbeing. It is using every part of that to make everything okay for yourself and your surroundings. That is the true form of prayer.”


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