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Aboriginal Sacred Tobacco Use: What Should You Know as a Researcher and Practitioner? Lynn Lavallée, PhD Candidate University of Toronto Research Grants Manager, Canadian Tobacco Control Research Initiative Introduction

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Aboriginal Sacred Tobacco Use: What Should You Know as a Researcher and Practitioner?

Lynn Lavallée,PhD Candidate

University of Toronto

Research Grants Manager, Canadian Tobacco Control Research Initiative


Introduction l.jpg
Introduction Researcher and Practitioner?

  • The rate of commercial tobacco use among Aboriginal people is almost double the general North American population.

  • In Canada, 57% of Aboriginals are smokers compared with 32% of the non-Aboriginal population (Health Canada, 2002).

  • In the United States adult population, 33% of American Indians and Alaska Natives are smokers compared with 23% of the non-Native population (2001 National Health Interview Survey).


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Introduction Researcher and Practitioner?

  • For youth, this statistic is more dramatic with 57% of American and Alaska Native youth smoking compared to 23% of non-Natives (National Bureau of Indian Affairs).

  • Smoking rates are not going down as seen in the general population (Assembly of First Nations, 1997).


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Introduction Researcher and Practitioner?

  • Tobacco control researchers, practitioners and funding agencies have an interest in working with Aboriginal People because of the increased use of commercial tobacco.

    • Meaning of sacred tobacco within the North American Aboriginal population.

    • How to work ‘with’ the Aboriginal community.


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Pre Notes: Researcher and Practitioner?

  • Each tribe uses medicines, including tobacco in slightly different ways.

  • It should not be assumed that all tribes use tobacco in the same manner.

  • Aboriginal knowledge is largely oral. In addition, some knowledge is not meant to be communicated to others and/or put into written form.

  • This presentation is based on my experiences, interactions with elders, and some written documentation.


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The Medicine Wheel Researcher and Practitioner?

  • The medicine wheel is symbolic for the circle of life with each direction representing various aspects of life.

  • The circle represents nature and all living things with all things being equal and connect, no beginning and no end.

    • The four races (white, red, yellow and black)

    • The four winds (north, south, east and west)

    • The four aspects of our individual nature (mental, spiritual, emotional, physical)

  • Opposing of research and/or practice that compartmentalizes.

    • Mandates of funding agencies, organizations, etc.


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Tobacco represents the Eastern direction Researcher and Practitioner?

Cedar represents the southern direction

SWEETGRASS

Sage represents the western direction

SAGE

TOBACCO

Sweetgrass represents the northern direction

CEDAR


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The Meaning of Tobacco Researcher and Practitioner?

  • We are spirits living in the human experience (Elder Vern Harper).

  • Tobacco helps us communicate with the spirit world and the Great Spirit.

  • Tobacco helps us communicate with others, particularly when meeting for the purposes of sharing and healing.


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How is tobacco used? Researcher and Practitioner?

  • Commercial tobacco is not preferred.

  • Prayer.

  • Offerings/gifts to Elders and others.

  • Offered back to Mother Earth.

  • Help in the journey back to the spirit world.

  • Ceremonial pipe.


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Tobacco in Prayer Researcher and Practitioner?

  • Tobacco is held in left hand, closest to the heart.

  • Sometimes wrapped in cloth.

  • Offered as a gift to Mother Earth – placed back on the soil.

  • Sometimes offered to a sacred fire.


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Tobacco as a Gift Researcher and Practitioner?

  • NOT given as an offering for the person to smoke.

  • RECIPROCITY

  • When requesting the help or knowledge of an Elder a gift of tobacco is presented, typically wrapped in cloth.

  • A gift of tobacco demonstrates your respect for the person and the thankfulness of their shared knowledge.


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Should you give tobacco as a gift? Researcher and Practitioner?

  • You should offer something back if you are taking something (asking someone to drum, sing, dance, share stories, research, knowledge, etc).

  • You should determine if the person/people you are visiting hold tobacco as a sacred plant and how tobacco is used.

  • Do this by simply asking if you should/can provide a gift of some kind and suggest tobacco.


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Should you give tobacco as a gift? Researcher and Practitioner?

  • Medicines, including tobacco are typically not sold to Aboriginals, although this may vary.

  • You can obtain tobacco from a local Aboriginal community or store.

  • If unable to find pure tobacco you can purchase commercial tobacco and wrap it in cloth.


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A Research Experience in the Aboriginal Community Researcher and Practitioner?

  • PhD research

  • I will be asking for knowledge and experiences to be shared by the community and must offer something back.

  • Offering tobacco is just one of many things I will do to demonstrate my respect to the community for their participation.


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A Research Experience in the Aboriginal Community Researcher and Practitioner?

  • Community-Based

  • Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (OCAP) Principles.

    • A political response to the role of knowledge production in reproducing colonial relations

  • Who’s need?

    • Practitioner, researcher or the community?

  • Who’s way?

    • Hierarchy of knowledge


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A Research Experience in the Aboriginal Community Researcher and Practitioner?

  • I offer tobacco every time I visit with my elder who is advising me on this project.

  • I will be offering tobacco ties (bundled) to participants before focus circles.

  • Tobacco will be held in our hands throughout the interview and circle to help us communicate.

  • Offered to Mother Earth or sacred fire.