Learn how cultural traditions among indigenous peoples contribute to our knowledge of health and well-being.
Each year on August 9, Canada and the rest of the globe celebrate the United Nations (UN) International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. It is an occasion to promote the rights of indigenous populations and to recognize the many contributions of indigenous people to our environment and culture.
According to the UN website, this year’s theme focuses on indigenous media and its role in challenging stereotypes, strengthening indigenous identity, and influencing social and political agendas.
There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in 70 countries worldwide. Each indigenous culture represents a unique set of traditions and social practices that contribute to the world’s cultural diversity. Many indigenous people continue to fight against the consequences of centuries of injustice and discrimination brought upon them by dominant cultures.
Traditional aboriginal diet
Indigenous communities in British Columbia sustained themselves on regional foods that included fish, moose, elk, deer, and seasonal plants and berries. These foods provided much in terms of protein and fats and less carbohydrates. In a study that began in 2006, the author notes that diabetes and metabolic syndrome were unheard of among traditional societies that lived off such diets.
There is growing support within the medical community for medicinal remedies that have been used by Aboriginal people for centuries. It is estimated that in Ontario alone, within the province’s vast tracts of pristine boreal forests, there are more than 400 species of plants used by traditional First Nations remedies.
Many traditional remedies come from plants that many of us have learned to call weeds, and that we meticulously yank from our gardens. But plants such as stinging nettle can be used to aid blood coagulation and to treat gout, anemia, poor circulation, and kidney stones. Lamb’s quarters can be a rich source of vitamin C and can be used to treat stomach aches, rheumatism, and headaches.
Many traditional superfoods such as goji, cacao, and extra-virgin olive oil not only offer many health benefits, but have also been used by traditional societies for centuries.
10 Canadian superfoods
These indigenous superfoods are hard to beat for amazing health benefits and a smaller carbon footprint when grown locally.
- Saskatoon berries offer a host of antioxidants.
- Flax is full of the healthy fat alpha-linolenic acid.
- Cranberries fight urinary infections and dental bacteria.
- Maple syrup boasts vitamins, minerals, and a distinct Canadian flavour.
- Sunflower seeds’ protein and polyunsaturated fat are their claim to fame.
- Squash is chock full of fibre and vitamins A and C.
- Wild rice has a nutty flavour and contains many vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.
- Walnuts have heart-healthy omega-3s and omega-6s, plus many vitamins and minerals.
- Barley may reduce harmful cholesterol levels and balance blood sugar.
- Currants are bursting with vitamin C and antioxidants such as polyphenols.