Event highlights differences between traditional, commercial tobacco

By Lisa Stringer    
Wednesday, 05 September 2007
There is a difference between traditional Native tobacco – considered sacred by many American Indian tribes — and the commercially manufactured and marketed tobacco put to the fire by smokers.

A special educational event to highlight those differences will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15 at the Tulsa Parks Central Community Center, 1028 E. Sixth Street.  It is free and open to the public.

Sponsored by the Traditional Ties Tobacco Program of the Indian Health Care Resource Center of Tulsa, Inc., the event, “Honoring Yourself by Respecting Your Past,” will offer presentations by local experts to educate attendees on various topics concerning Native American and traditional tobacco and commercial tobacco.

Presenters include Bill Breckinridge and Cynthia Tainpeah, both of the Muscogee Creek Nation, and Crosslin Smith of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee.  Nationally recognized for their knowledge of traditional tobacco, the speakers will honor the sacred ceremonial and medicinal role it plays in Native American culture and the monetary role it once enjoyed in trade among tribal nations.

The first speaker, Bill Breckinridge, a Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen with more than 18 years experience in nursery and greenhouse plant production, has spent decades learning about Native American plants and tobacco, and his experience led him to develop “Muscogee Tobacco,” an open pollinated tobacco plant with genetics from several native varieties.  Breckinridge’s presentation, “Presenting Tobacco 101: Respect for Nature,” will lead the tobacco event at 1 p.m.

Crosslin Smith, a spiritual healer and member of a traditional Keetoowah family, will explore the topic “Presenting Traditional Tobacco Use: Respect for the Creator and Others” at 1:30 p.m.  An internationally recognized lecturer on Native American wisdom, Smith uses traditional methods and medicines passed down through generations of teachings through the Cherokee language.

After a 2 p.m. intermission during which attendees can sample foods provided by various vendors and register for door prizes, Cynthia Tainpeah will speak at 2:45 p.m. on “Presenting Traditional Tobacco vs. Commercial Tobacco: Respect for Yourself and Future Generations.”  Tainpeah, a full-blood Muscogee (Creek) tribal member, is Program Manager for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Tobacco Prevention Program, and has been instrumental in increasing awareness of the health effects of commercial tobacco use among American Indian people while respecting the ceremonial use of tobacco.

Other event activities include basket weaving and a performance by a Native drum group.  Participants will receive a free t-shirt and will be eligible for prizes, including a $100 gift certificate.

The goal of IHCRC’s Traditional Ties Tobacco Program is to promote a healthy lifestyle free from the abuse of commercial tobacco products, to reduce second-hand smoke exposure of infants and children in the home and community, and to reduce the number of nicotine-related illnesses among elders and adults.  The program’s tobacco cessation program is open to all Native Americans, but particularly targets youth, pregnant women, adults and elders.

According to statistics quoted in the IHCRC’s “Healthy Spirit” magazine, American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest smoking rates of any racial or ethnic population in the United States, and the American Legacy Foundation states that one in every three smokers will die of a smoking-related illness.

For more information about the Sept. 15 special event or the Indian Health Care Resource Center of Tulsa’s tobacco cessation program, click here or call Christi Schultz, IHCRC Traditional Ties Tobacco Program Coordinator at (918) 588-1900 X2244.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 05 September 2007 )