The Yetwánaý Project: Exploring the Link Between Traditional Medicines, Foods, Culturally Related Exercise and Health

Welcome to The Yetwánaý project blog. Yetwánaý is the Skwxwú7mesh name for salmonberry. This name refers to the whole plant and we have chosen this name for our research project as salmonberry is one of the first plant foods that becomes available in the spring. Please see the next blog post on the benefits of yetwánaý for more information on how to use this wonderful plant.

This research project will look at our traditional plant medicines, traditional foods and culturally related exercise and explore how these things might aid in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in our communities. The research team consists of a Squamish Nation committee working in cooperation with a research team out of the University of Montreal and the University of Ottawa. I (Leigh Joseph) will be undertaking my PhD studies through this project. The aim of the research is to contribute to the Squamish Nation community in the most practical and useful way possible. Therefore I will be looking for input and ideas throughout this research project and beyond.

The project will have two parts to it. We will be partnering with existing community programs to incorporate activities, resources and events inline with our research focus. Keep your eyes peeled for events such as plant workshops, plant walks, nutritional education events and more!

The second part of this research project will be a diabetes intervention. This intervention will give approximately 30 members of our community, 15 who are pre-diabetic and 15 who are living with type 2 diabetes, the opportunity to be part of a 1 year experience to connect to their health through culturally relevant ways in order to prevent or manage type 2 diabetes.

Participants in this intervention will have access to:

-traditional plant medicines,

-activities related to traditional foods and medicines,

-educational resources and activities aimed to increase access and use of traditional plant medicines and foods

-ways to measure and monitor their progress through the course of the 1 year period

We will send out more information on this intervention but if you or someone you know would like to be involved or learn more please feel free to contact us!

Type 2 diabetes is a symptom of colonialism. Our people didn’t live with this disease prior to contact. Our diet, medicines and ways of life were changed in a short period of time. As a result of this change in lifestyle, and a shift away from our traditional diets, we are seeing the following:

-Prevalence of diabetes is 3 to 5 times higher in First Nations than in the general population.

-In most populations where rates of diabetes are higher, age of diagnosis is younger in First Nations peoples.

-These rates are similar in other countries where Indigenous populations have been subject to colonization

We can look to our ancestors and our cultural teachings for ways to prevent and manage this disease. There is no shame here, only strength. As Indigenous People we can take a stand and say that taking care of our bodies and our health is a way to heal ourselves, our families and our communities. Health is multifaceted and by strengthening our physical health we will then have the healthy platform to continue to strengthen our spirit, our hearts, our connection to our culture.

We will update this page with information on our traditional plants and their health benefits as well as other diabetes and health related topics. Our overall aim for this research is to promote the health of our nation and increase education and access to traditional plant medicines, foods and culturally related exercise.

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