Our land has always provided the basics needed to stay healthy, good food and a clean environment. Our people learned that it also provided medicines to heal a variety of ailments. There are many examples of medicinal plants and their uses, only a few of which can be mentioned here. Many plants were used to make healing teas and tonics. Juniper berries and needles were used to make a drink to ease colds and sore throats. Rhubarb roots were boiled and used for arthritis. Soapberry roots were boiled and the cooled liquid used for stomach problems. Tea made from Labrador Tea leaves and flowers was used for colds. A tea made from spruce boughs picked in spring is an excellent tonic, good for mouth sores and cracked tongue.
Other plants parts were used externally to treat burns and sores. Clear pitch from spruce trees was put on sores. A healing spruce salve can be made from spruce gum and grease. Pitch also was used for blood poisoning. Patricia Lundgren told of getting a bad burn on her arm. Bertha Blondin wrapped spruce bark around her arm “like a cast” with the sap side in and the arm healed well. Plants can be inhalants. During an influenza epidemic in Moosehide, Peggy Kormendy’s parents placed spruce boughs in water in a wash basin, added hot rocks, made a tent with a sheet, then encouraged their children to breathe the vapours. They were feeling better within two days.
"The Indian people try to tell the white people, don’t eat just meat, you got to eat everything with it. Gristle, marrow, bone … a lot of white people die of scurvy because they didn’t do what we told them … Eat the caribou, eat all the plants from mother earth and eat what’s good for us. So we eat everything in there, that’s where we get our vitamins, medicine and stuff."
Percy Henry, 1993
Interpreter Fran Morberg demonstrates the medicinal uses of juniper during a Dänojà Zho summer program.