Minnesota’s American Indian Nations have tobacco traditions that were passed down for generations. But those traditions have also been corrupted by the commercial tobacco industry, which today profits off the recreational abuse of plants that were sacred medicines for indigenous people.
Commercialization and direct marketing using American Indian images have led to an epidemic-level health problem in Minnesota’s tribal communities. Today, the cigarette smoking rate for American Indians is 59 percent – four times that of the general population (14 percent).
At the same time, American Indian people in Minnesota are working to restore traditional tobacco practices, to reduce commercial tobacco abuse like cigarette smoking, and to prevent secondhand smoke exposure. To help, ClearWay Minnesota collaborated with Minnesota tribes to create Keep Tobacco Sacred, an advertising campaign that reminds and educates about the differences between traditional and commercial tobacco. Components have included billboards, radio ads, and art projects like murals and exhibitions of Native artwork.
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.