Sober for October: Traditional Medicines and Wellness from Squamish Nation



Senaqwila Wyss is a 28-year-old youth from Squamish Nation with a passion for the healing properties of pla​​​nts and medicines. Her mother, T'uy't'tanat (Cease Wyss), who has worked in ethnobotany for the past 30 years, has passed her own teachings and wisdoms on to her daughter. Together, the two shared their knowledge in a traditional tea-making workshop at Healing Our Spirit Worldwide in September.

If we look at our wellness journ​eys as First Nations people, they often incorporate our communities, teachings and culture. We draw in good medicine from each of the four corners: plants and medicines, people, the animals and the Creator.

Senaqwila and Cease share their teachings with others about the special healing properties the plants around us have. Whether in a rural or urban community, there is good​​ medicine everywhere.

Senaqwila talks about the different medicines such as rosehips, dandelions, hibiscus flowers a​nd hawthorn that can be made into different teas and tinctures to support our wholistic wellness. She also reminds us that even if you do not live on your traditional territory, you can still find some of these medicines and ingredients in health food stores. There are many ways to nurture your spirit or walk this journey as a First Nations person.

Teas and tinctures can support detoxing our bodies, cleansing our liver and help with digestion. They also can support us in reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption by choosing them as an alternative beverage. Many tinctures can be added to juices, water, or simply applying a few drops directly onto yo​​ur tongue. This offers the opportunity to take the tincture with you to gatherings and celebrations where alcohol might be present.

Senaqwila says that making traditional teas and beverages communally not only allows us to connec​​t with the plants and medicines but is also an opportunity to share teachings and wisdom with one another. It can open up dialogue and knowledge exchange – you never know who you could be inspiring and what you might learn in return.

Click here to read a rec​​ipe on making apple cider vinegar tincture. 

Making teas, harvesting medicines and using them to nourish our bodies is about connecting to the land and grounding ourselves. It is a reminder that we are always rooted to our ancestral teachings and that they are integral to who we are as First Nations people. Whether it is connecting to the water or our forests, this practice helps our grounding and allows us to re-centre oursel​ves and reconnect with nature, all of which supports us on our healing and wellness journeys.

Senaqwila reminds us ​that illness becomes wellness when we take “I" and turn into “we". Remember, we are not alone on this journey, and by connecting to our land and our ancestors' favorite medicines and recipes, that can help to bring us back to our Spirit.

The centre of this work is to see our plant relatives as a large part of our wellness and well-being, no matter what stage of the journey you find yourself on. She shares that “we don't need to worry when we pray with the plants, if we stumble or say the wrong thing. Speaking our language and spending time talking to the plants, trees, flowers and our land helps us to let go and truly be present with ourselves and the environment around us." ​​

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