Tell us about your knowledge of cannabis
For me it started way before I was born. This has been a traditional medicine for us for years and throughout time we came to use it for different medicines. And it’s been used in ways that heal the people. I’ve been a midwife. I come from a long line of midwives. We also use it to slow down premature labour, deal with different illnesses, and learn what tinctures, what medicines, what different strains are good for.
For our people there’s a lot of depression, anxiety, PTSD and this medicine works for the mind. Because I truly believe that when you heal the mind the body follows and that’s what we’re trying to promote with this Indigenous Cannabis Cup. We’re healing the people and letting them know and understand that cannabis is a medicine and teach them how to use it. Then we’re going to have the educational workshops, informational workshops on just exactly that – different ways to heal different illnesses.
I’ve been making medicine for years. Lately it’s been for cancer patients. Different kinds of cancer, different strains that we use and it works, even within my own family. I have two daughters, and one had breast cancer. She beat it. It’s gone. Another one had MS. It’s in remission. It’s gone. Hopefully to never come back again. So even personally, my own family, we use this, we believe in this. We know that it works.
For myself, I’ve been using it for years. I have degenerative disc disease. It’s gone into my hips, my hands. I use it daily and I am walking proof that it works. They had told me years ago that I had one year to walk and… being the way that I am, I said, “No, this isn’t happening.” And I got even more into the medicine and actually started using it, changed my lifestyle, changed the way I eat, and exercised more. So, I’m walking proof that this works.
I’m not bad for being 54 years old. I feel good and I want others to feel good. I want others to heal. For me that’s what this is about, is actually healing the people.
How important is education?
A lot of it is about education, because cannabis has been stigmatized and criminalized and they think that it’s bad thing. A lot of this work is to educate people to let them know that this is a good medicine. For some they’ve been using it for years and there’s going to be a lot of people here that’s going to come to educate. So I’m looking forward to that. The different workshops that we’re planning for the cup have a lot of informational and educational content and I’m really looking forward to it.
To know what medicines that the people need, to know what medicines that the women need, because there’s also others that you start at certain times within the pregnancy and about six weeks before we start, we use Slippery Elm and that helps too. We get the women, get them happening. There’s medicines that we use once a day first to help to clean them out, to make sure everything’s clear and clear the blood to keep them healthy, keep that milk going. Yeah, we’ve been doing this since the beginning of time.
What’s important is to be able to self-sustain, to be able to heal yourself to know the process of what to do with the growing of it, the drying of it and then to turn it into a medicinal property whether it’s the tinctures or the edibles. There’s different ways of consuming it. There’s different ways of getting it into your body. There’s different dosages for different illnesses and that’s what I’m hoping people are going to learn that much were told isn’t true. They have to realize it for themselves and experience it themselves.
And they come back and they have these ideas, these business ideas – whatever the businesses that they decide to go into; if it does good the government will put a stop to it or try to control it. Like for a while there it was cigarettes, gasoline, and they wanted to control that too. It depends on what territory whether the people are ready to stand up and defend it, defend their rights, or if they just accept it and go along with it. Each community is different. So a lot of it is the leaders, the leadership.
Within the Great Law, all laws, all decisions are put before the people. That’s the way it’s designed. We had the clan system and each clan decides on a matter, and then they come together and they discuss it and then something is passed, or it’s denied. And even more to do this day, even within our traditional government that process has been overlooked. The ones that have these titles seem to think that they have the power to make decisions without the people.
The people’s input isn’t there, the process hasn’t been followed through. So that’s the sad part too… that you see these ones that are supposedly title holders, and different ones are saying “No…no…no,” but now the people are even questioning them like “Why are you saying no?” “Why didn’t you ask the people?” “Who did you consult with?”
So even within our system, not even the outside government, within our own government, processes are not being followed. Laws are not being followed. So even that… the people are stepping up, the people are questioning and they’re questioning certain ones. They want clarification, they want information on everything… everything that these so-called title holders are doing, because a lot of it is wrong. It’s wrong for the people. The decisions aren’t helping the people, but that’s slowly changing too.
Is there a growing indigenous cannabis movement?
Well the Cup is a start. This is the first Indigenous Cannabis Cup. So this is the starting point here. For native territories all across this continent, this is a start. I’m encouraging everyone to come here and network, find out who has the same thinking, who has the like minds. That’s how we are going to do this. Because everyone has gone…. everyone has faced different legal battles in different provinces, different territories, and lot of them are going to be here and do the workshops and inform others what they went through.You know, politically, just to see… just to come together.
My sister Kanahus is going to come down and she is going to be doing a workshop. Right now she’s at one of these small towns… See, when a pipeline wants to go through, the easiest place to start is usually the smallest, poorest, economically deficient town. So what she’s doing now is, instead of that thousand and one miles of pipeline, to do a thousand and one miles of hemp as a resource for this community. So by the time May 18th comes, she’s going to have a world of knowledge to give us. And I’m looking forward to that.
Now, even with the hemp, they’re still facing the same restrictions. It can be used for so much, and there’s so much potential in it, the potential is overwhelming. But again the government will hinder it. They put restrictions on it, because they don’t want us to be self-sustaining.
What do we need for a healed Turtle Island?
We need for cannabis to be accepted. To know the medicinal properties, to accept the medicinal properties, to use the medicinal properties, to start the healing. The healing of the people, because it is real. It does work. And for that to be available to everyone, everywhere…. that would be the healing. The healing that I can envision. The healing that I want everywhere.
Because when you go through it yourself, or your children go through it, you want and you ask the universe for help and then it comes. It’s there and then you have to accept it. Once you believe it and you accept it and you use it, it can work for you. It will work. Like I said my own children, myself, have used it and I’ve seen it. It’s a reality and I want others to know that too.
Can you tell us more about your background?
I come from a long line of activists. Starting back at Ganienkeh my family was one of the 300 families that we needed to cover the land and start a new community, and community was based on the Great Law. Everything
about it – the way they handle situations was all based on the Great Law. Living it, truly living it, as a community working together.
The three basics of the Great Law are Peace, Power, Righteousness. The first and main concept of the Great Law is Peace, maintaining peace within the whole Confederacy and the process is that we take even when something happens. We have the Warrior Society, but that’s the very last ones that we call in. We don’t call them in until all peaceful avenues have been exhausted. Through everything that we do, the burden of peace is heavy. It’s not an easy thing. It’s not an easy way of thinking, because you don’t just react to something. It’s the responsibility; the ability to respond and to be able to handle the situation in a peaceful manner. The end result of all the steps and procedures within the Great Law is to obtain and maintain peace throughout the lands.
How has the Great Law guided your activism?
For myself I’ve been involved in many conflicts throughout the years. Some of them didn’t always end peacefully. For example, Oka. Someone was shot, someone was killed and that was a sad thing. Last year I was at Standing Rock and I was there for five months. And that started peaceful. It started out of prayer. It brought the people together, brought thousands of people together, and we tried nonviolent direct actions.
We were met with aggression and it escalated to a point where a lot of people got hurt. The military came right after us and there was nothing peaceful about it. In the end, the army came in and forcibly removed everyone. A lot of people were arrested. A lot of people got hurt, but that was a hard one because so many people came together that we couldn’t teach and maintain a peaceful way because there were just too many people. Too many all at once and it was hard to educate the ones that came. Some of them grasped it and some understood, some came knowing it already, but it was hard. It was just so many people, so many fractions and then even within, there were people that had their own agenda, and that was to stop us. It was really hard. The divide and conquer tactic worked very well, and that’s an age-old tactic – divide and conquer. It was used there and… it worked.
Again it comes to having a good mind, to have a strong mind in everything that we do. And even this whole gathering that’s coming up. I look at it as bringing together a network of people that think the same. We want peace. We want healing. And, as far as the Great Law, it all comes together as peace in your mind, a peaceful way of thinking, a good mind. And even this gathering that’s coming, everyone that’s coming and participating, they want to teach, they want to inform people. They want to help the people and again, to heal the people, because if you heal the mind, the body follows.
Is cannabis a mind changer?
That’s what many of our old people were raised to believe. They can’t help it. Because, as the older generation, that’s what they were taught – that it was a drug, that it was a bad thing and they can’t help that. Their mind is set that way. And, hopefully, as time goes on, they’ll realize that it is a medicine and they’ll accept it. I know that they do know, but for some reason… they go against it.
I would encourage those opposed to cannabis to open their mind, to come with an open mind, to leave the stigma behind when they come through those gates. And to open their minds and really look and really listen to see what is going on, to understand that it is a medicine. For many of them it’s not their fault. They were raised like that between the residential schools, the damage that was done, the mindset that they had, the influence of the churches and… they were made to be docile. There are generations that can’t help but accept what the government or priests say. They were made to think like that. It’s not their fault. And then they pass that thinking on to their children. Their minds were formed to what the government and what the outside world wanted them to be.
You’ve got to remember at one time their objective was to kill the Indian… to kill the Indian inside those children and they did for many, for a lot of them. When they came out of the residential schools they passed on that way of thinking, you know, to accept it, their docile way of just accepting it. And that’s what they passed on. But now the younger ones, this generation is knowing that it’s not a bad thing. That cannabis is a medicine and they are accepting it. So for the older ones I don’t blame them, because they were raised to think like that. They couldn’t help it, but it’s changing. It’s evolving as the younger ones are learning and accepting and knowing that it is a good thing, that it is a medicine, that it can help you, that it does cure.
What will the government do?
Well, put it this way: the government has always controlled any way that we can make money. They’ve always had control of it. If it happened to be bubblegum, teddy bears… anything that we were able to financially sustain ourselves with, they want control of it. They’ve always wanted control of it.
Doesn’t matter if it’s corn, beavers, baskets or fish, they want control of everything. Years ago, even the basket makers would have to sneak across the river just to be able to trade, to do their trading for other products. And they had to sneak for that. The government wanted to control even of the baskets. It doesn’t matter what it is, the government wants control.