Commercial tobacco use in American Indian communities is at an alarming rate that ranges between twenty-one to forty-four percent and the tobacco industry has continued promoting tobacco as “natural.”
Traditional tobacco in American Indian communities is considered a sacred gift that is used for spiritual, cultural and ceremonial use and it ensures the continuity of their way of life. Through historical trauma such as boarding schools, genocide and being forced off of their land their sacred medicine became manipulated and now leads to the overall high rates of commercial tobacco rates.
Today, we know commercial tobacco as cigarettes, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco and cigars. In American Indian communities, there are many complexities to address the harms of commercial tobacco in their communities while still honoring their traditional tobacco protocols.
Tobacco has been raped of its values and through revitalization of stories and reclaiming of their traditional ways through teachings, communities are beginning to take a stand and healing from what historical trauma and oppression has caused.
“While it is true that Native Americans as a whole have the highest tobacco use prevalence, this, like other ailments is the result of marginalization that is the result of colonization. These are things that are understood. The power to overcome exists within those who really understand their traditions and those who know the language and other esoteric knowledge.”
Lawrence Shorty (Navajo-Choctaw)
CoCo “fresh” Villaluz LRI-Tobacco Prevention