ClearWay MinnesotaSM supports Minnesota’s American Indian advocates in their work to advance smoke-free policies on tribal lands. American Indian Nations have an ancient and complicated relationship with tobacco. Traditionally, tobacco is viewed as a sacred medicine bestowed by the Creator, central to tribal culture, practices and ceremonies. But for generations, the commercial tobacco industry has corrupted Native tobacco practices, and has also marketed directly to American Indians by exploiting their images in advertisements. Today, smoking rates among American Indians in Minnesota are enormously high (59 percent compared to 14.4 percent among the general population), and tobacco-related diseases are the top killers in their communities.
Through the Tribal Tobacco Education and Policy Initiative (TTEP), ClearWay Minnesota funded five Minnesota reservations with the goal of preparing their communities to advance smoke-free tribal policies.
The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa has reservation lands in far northern Minnesota. Grantee activities included:
- Creating signage for smoke-free powwows
- Addressing smoke-free environments with officials
- Educating their communities about commercial tobacco, traditional tobacco and secondhand smoke
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe has reservation lands in north-central Minnesota. Grantee activities included:
- Engaging local councils to participate in a tobacco coalition
- Providing space for leaders and elders to educate on traditional tobacco ways and to promote smoke-free environments
- Holding a smoke-free outdoor music festival
The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe has reservation lands in central Minnesota. Grantee activities included:
- Conducting a community-wide health assessment
- Collaborating with a larger health coalition to provide information about commercial tobacco’s harm
- Partnering with a traditional healer/leader to educate about tobacco
The Upper Sioux Community has reservation lands in west-central Minnesota. Grantee activities included:
- Creating a policy for a Commercial Tobacco-Free Tiny Tots Powwow (Wacipi)
- Educating on the negative effects of secondhand smoke
The White Earth Band of Ojibwe has reservation lands in northwestern Minnesota. Grantee activities included:
- Conducting a survey of knowledge and attitudes about tobacco
- Educating about traditional tobacco use vs. commercial tobacco abuse
In 2016, ClearWay Minnesota also collaborated with Twin Cities PBS (TPT) on Reclaiming Sacred Tobacco, a 30-minute documentary on the tobacco practices of Anishinaabe and Dakota people in Minnesota. Beginning on November 13 at 7 p.m., to coincide with Native American Indian Heritage Month, Reclaiming Sacred Tobacco will air on TPT’s MN Channel. The video can also be streamed here:
Three web shorts were also created for this project:
Additional resources on the tobacco of traditional tobacco can be found below.