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Carrier Traditional Medicines Part 2 - Respect When Harvesting Plants

Carrier Traditional Medicines Part 2 - Respect When Harvesting Plants

Jun 30, 2016
Category: Traditional Foods & Medicines Research 

Our Carrier philosophy is traditionally passed down through oral stories and legends, first hand experience and teachings from elders and knowledge holders. Today this practice continues, and lessons are also shared in workshops, conferences, classrooms, or through written articles like this.

A fundamental teaching of our people is around respect. Respect is integral to every aspect of life, inclusive of health and healing practices. Everything in the environment is considered a sacred gift, which begets unwavering respect. The privilege of being provided for by the earth is something that must be respected in order for the provision of the gifts, which enable human existance to continue.

 Elizabeth Jack holding Cow Parsnip Roots collected during the project

When harvesting plants for medicinal use, respect is shown by ensuring that only a portion of the plant is taken so that it can still grow and produce. Wasting, impropper disposal, or not saying thank you (by leaving an offering to the plant) can also signify disrespect.

Mabel Jack holding a bundle of willow bark

Traditionally, our people believe that we are equal to everything in the environment, and as such everything deserves equal and respectful treatment. Here are some of the words our traditional medicine research focus group and interview participants shared about respect in relation to harvesting plants for medicinal use:

"Anything that you cut down or take from the ground you have to pay, you have to pay with tobacco or something like that." – Alec Johnny, Saik'uz

"Things I know about what my grandmother said is to have respect for the land. Where you take out your Indian medicine, you pay with something. Before you take things out, you have to pay the land for the medicine you are taking. If you don't pay, it won't work." – Peter Abraham, Takla

"People usually leave something behind when they are making medicine, people usually leave tobacco or candy or even their spit if they don't have anything to leave. They leave something behind because they want to say thank you and they want the plant to grow back in abundance next year." - George George Sr., Nadleh

"When you go to the mountain you make your face black with ash, charcoal." - Cecile Patrick, Saik'uz

"Charcoal before you go up in the mountain. You mark your face and the charcoal will protect you when you're out in the bush." – Irene Skin, Skin Tyee

"Angeline told us an interesting thing yesterday. She told us that we shouldn't throw our medicine plants in the garbage. We should take the used plants back in the bush and bury it so that was what we had to do." – Ida George, Nadleh

"You have to share it. If you make medicine you have to share it. It's a gift from God so you have to give it back." – Madeline Johnny, Saik'uz

Warner Naizel and Alfred Joseph

Respect as a fundamental value and philosophy is an integral part of our Carrier culture, as demonstrated here for the gifts of traditional medicine. Check out our next Carrier Traditional Medicine post - Part 3, which will focus on different types of traditional healers.

© Carrier Sekani Family Services, 2016. Written/compiled by Marlaena Mann. All rights reserved.


Aboriginal Health Sciences FNST 282-3 (2004) Carrier Sekani Family Services and the University of Northern British Columbia

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Last modified: Monday 06-Jul-20 16:02:04 PDT