For the First Nations, territory, language, ancestral knowledge and healing practices are closely related and specific to each community. Healers, the guardians of tradition, have passed on this knowledge for generations and are intimately familiar with the particularities and uses of each plant and each tree provided by Mother Earth. In this way, the Anishinabeg who live in the forest use tree bark in order to soothe certain painful conditions. These healing practices are not limited to the treatment of illness; they are holistic in nature and take into account the individual’s physical, mental and spiritual states.
Ancestral knowledge played a fundamental role not only when the first Europeans arrived on Turtle Island (North America), particularly in the treatment of scurvy thanks to the vitamin C contained in white cedar (Thuya occidentalis), but also during the First World War.
Indeed, the use of yarrow (Achillea millefolium) saved soldiers from their injuries. The astringent properties of fresh yarrow leaves applied to a wound stop the bleeding. The plant also possesses analgesic and antiseptic properties.
The Anishinabeg also attribute spiritual values to yarrow, as well as to four sacred plants: sweet grass, sage, cedar and tobacco. Related to sweet grass and cedar, yarrow wards off negative energy. Sweet grass attracts positive energy and cedar helps maintain balance.
Another plant, cow parsnip, (Heracleum maximum) reportedly spared the Wendat people from the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. This infection, which was introduced by demobilized soldiers, caused over 50,000 deaths in the country.