Sunday, May 31, 2015

Native Medicine Gardens Welcome Pollinators

To offer tobacco is to pay an ultimate respect to that which you are asking.
Six Nations Farmers Market
"Our elders tell us that our food is our medicine," Elaine Lee with the De dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre (Main St.E) puts a layer of pine cones over a piece of landscape fabric that's in a wooden basket. She is demonstrating how to plant delightful, mini-vegetable gardens to promote self-sustainability. We're growing peppers, parsley, tomatoes, zucchinis, onions, and sage, along with marigold flowers to ward of harmful insects.

"The best part is that it connects you to your food," Elaine adds. "With the energy you put into planting and tending your garden, the produce of which you then eat, you complete that circle of life. You honour that circle."

After a light lunch, the group of ten women go back outdoors.

In the garden, already planted, is mint, pennyroyal (its tea works against colds and the bees love it!), and burdock useful for cleansing skin, soothing kidneys, boils, canker sores, styes, and more.

There's motherwort, whose flowers works best for women's health (including PMS and menopause).  It can also be used for rheumatism, sciatica, nerves, urinary cramps, sleeplessness, delirium, chest colds, congestion etc.
There are stinging nettles, which are pure plant protein ("they are my friends," Elaine says, since they help heal her arthritis).

Comfrey provides a great ointment for skin conditions.
There's a hawthorn berry, rich in vitamins, used to stop menstrual flow.
The wild strawberries that we are planting will be useful for digestive upsets, diarrhoea, cleansing diuretic for rheumatism, gout, arthritis, and jaundice. Among the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois), the wild strawberry is regarded as the "leader" of the berries. Six Nations Farmer Market writes that this berry is the first berry food to appear in the spring and is eaten as a blood purifier. Elderberries, red raspberry and tender sumac berry sprouts are also used for their alternative, or blood-building, properties. It is also used as a woman’s medicine.

Elaine describes how in days gone by, the women of this land would wear bandolier bags, squatting down and picking the medicines, or sometimes using their dresses as baskets. Beautiful embroidery depicted the medicine that they carried. Women would get together, like we are doing and plant and weed, and gather.

"Everybody has their own medicine. Everybody comes with their own knowledge. But as the Ojibwe say, "you forget." And so it is your walk to rediscover what you have lost."
We used to communicate with plants, beyond boundaries of speech, interacting respectfully with the environment around us. We watched the cycles of time: we watched children develop, how they related to the plants, and from there, we would identify the next medicine person.

I complain about the "creeping Charlie" that has overrun my backyard at home. Apparently, it's edible! Elaine explains that in traditional teachings, if a plant comes to you, it is because you need it.
"You need to sit with a medicine person, an herbalist or such, who can help you."

Elaine showed us how to loosen the soil, dig light trenches in preparation for the baby tobacco plants.
She directs us to use a hands length apart for the tobacco we are going to plant.
Tobacco is especially sacred to the first peoples. Six Nations Farmers Market explains how Aboriginal people use Traditional Tobacco to represent "the honesty that we carry in our hearts when words are to be spoken between two people or to the spirit world."

"When a request is made, a teaching is shared, a question is asked, or a prayer is offered, the Sacred Tobacco travels ahead of the words so that honesty will be received in a kind and respectful way. Tobacco is seen as a gift given us by the Creator." It is understood as a fundamental means of communicating with the Creator.

"Every person knows a piece of plant knowledge. The plant will allow you to learn what you need, and it is different from what others might need."

Check out this great Six Nations list of traditional plants and medicines.

Flowers from these beneficial plants, are well loved by pollinators of all kind.

Comfrey