PART I: Food as Medicine

Tomaquag "Belonging(s)" Blog
March 2016
Belonging(s) defined as "A close relationship among a group and personal or public effects"

"Kunoopeam" (Welcome)!
I am so excited that Spring is right around the corner. I have begun the process of preparing my vegetable garden. Once the threat of frost has past, I am ready to get dirty! Tomaquag Museum is also preparing the Three Sister's Garden. Check our website or give us a call for volunteer opportunities. In the meantime, I thought I would share this 2014 tongue-in-cheek article written by Vincent Schilling and published by Indian Country Today titled "Things Native Americans Can Do to Prepare for Spring".  

As part of our on-going partnership with Brown University, we will be presenting a three-part blog by student Esmeralda Lopez. (Please see Tomaquag Museum Disclaimer below) Ms. Lopez's blog is the result of an assignment from her class "Treaty Rights and Food Fights: Eating Local in Indian Country". The course, taught by Elizabeth M. Hoover, PhD., Assistant Professor of American and Ethnic Studies explores the disparate health conditions faced by Native communities and the efforts by many groups to address these health problems through increasing community access to traditional food, whether by gardening projects or a revival of hunting and fishing traditions…"

For detailed course information please CLICK HERE

Guest Blogger Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by Guest Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Tomaquag Museum or any employee thereof. Tomaquag Museum is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by Guest Bloggers.

We will present each part of this series from Esmeralda's blog in weekly installments.  


PART I Food as Medicine
Fast food is used often to describe unhealthy yet convenient meals from businesses such as McDonald's, Wendy's, and KFC. If people are dogmatic about unhealthy food being a danger to our health, then why is it a far-fetched idea that good food can be medicinal? The US government created the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) to provide nutritional education of what a "healthy" and "balanced" diet is, the first of its kind was the Food Guide Pyramid. Since its inception, the Food Guide Pyramid has received numerous criticisms. One of the most well-known critics is Marion Nestle who wrote Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health in which she wrote that several representative of the dairy industry sat on the committee in-charge of developing 2000 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The DGA guidelines haven't made achieving a balanced diet any easier, as they have changed many times throughout its history.  For example, the DGA attempted to create a culturally relevant nutritional guideline for First Nation people but failed to do so. Their attempt simply added a few indigenous foods and kept the dairy group. First of all, making one guideline for all First Nation people is completely wrong. There are over 567 tribes (567 are federally recognized) in the US, each with their own language, culture, and diet! Additionally, keeping the dairy group is culturally irrelevant given that many First Nation people are lactose-intolerant. The simplification of food to its nutritional contents blatantly ignores the history of indigenous foods and the cultural, spiritual, and political importance of accessing traditional foods.

The repertoire of culturally and historically irrelevant nutrition education models led Kibbe Conti, a registered dietitian from the Lakota nation, to develop The Four Winds Nutrition Model. Conti collaborated with elder Bob Chasing Horse to develop the model specifically for indigenous Northern Plains communities. They deliberately chose to use the Sacred Medicine Wheel as the basis for the model because of its cultural significance and the traditional knowledge about balance.

The Four Winds model includes both traditional and contemporary foods. On the wheel, the West Wind represents water, the North Wind represents lean meat/protein, the East Wind represents fruit or vegetables, and the South Wind represents whole grains and/or starchy vegetables (Conti, 238). The Four Winds Nutrition Model emphasizes the importance of balancing the four winds in a meal—one group should not dominate the meal.

                                                                              The significance of using the Sacred Medicine Wheel is that it validates and incorporates traditional knowledge in addressing contemporary issues. The Four Winds Nutrition Model is one of a growing number of Native nutrition models that have risen in "an effort to teach nutrition while preserving the cultural knowledge of traditional food systems."




Furthermore, they inform youth, a generation that has witnessed only the result of the diet and lifestyle changes, the history of their diet transition (235). Native nutrition models are more than educational tools, they are tools of resistance— they are a much-needed medicine to addressing health issues in Indian Country.

A Narragansett nutrition model could include both traditional and local foods. An example of a traditional Narragansett food tradition is clambakes, where clams and lobsters are baked. Clams and lobsters are foods that could be included in the North Wind –lean meat/protein. Another Narragansett food tradition is Cranberry Thanksgiving that involves the harvesting of the berries from cranberry bogs. Cranberries can be grouped in the East Wind representing fruits and vegetables. Cranberries are deemed "super foods" because of their disease-fighting antioxidants, which prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). Lastly, the Narragansett nutrition model could include corn in the South Wind- representing whole grains/starchy vegetables specifically the Narragansett white cap corn (Zanger 13) used to make johnnycakes.

Conti, K. 2006. "Diabetes Prevention in Indian Country: Developing Nutrition Models to Tell
the Story of the Food-System Change." Journal of Transcultural Nursing. 17(3):234-245

Zanger, M. 2001. The American Ethnic Cookbook for Students. ABC-CLIO, 13.

Kutaputush (Thank You) and may the fresh air and sunshine invigorate you!

Kim Peters, Collections Manager

The Tomaquag "Belonging(s)" Blog, is a monthly conversation dedicated to the happenings, musings of staff, and a peek at the collections of the Tomaquag Museum. We welcome guest bloggers, and topics relevant to Native American Museums and Indian Country, especially those located in the New England area.

If you are interested in contributing to our blog please contact  

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by Guest Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Tomaquag Museum or any employee thereof. Tomaquag Museum is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by Guest Bloggers.

Marketing Assistant