Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Nation Healthy Nation Foods Project

Background information from CDC: The Cherokee Nation promotes the cultivation, gathering, preparation, and preservation of traditional Cherokee foods and uses traditional Cherokee games for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. Due to dispossession of lands and relocation, many of the traditional Cherokee foods practices have been lost or practiced by only a small portion of the Cherokee population. Many of the practices and knowledge exist with the elders of the Cherokee Nation. This project works to retain and disseminate that knowledge.

Interview with Ms. Cora Flute

What’s your favorite thing about being involved in your traditional foods project?  

Learning that a lot of our Cherokee families are still gathering traditional foods and playing traditional games. There have been more community and school gardens implemented this year.

Children playing stickball, a traditional game. Photo courtesy of Cora Flute.

What traditional foods and physical activities do you have going on this summer?

We have had numerous stickball and marble games along with many blowgun competitions at various summer camps around the area.    We have monthly employee stickball games during the lunch hour. I have the best job ever.

Which local traditional foods did you choose to cultivate, hunt, gather or plant for your program?  

We gathered polk and prepared it for taste testing with a group of third graders at one of our local schools in our service area. Our program developed an educational booklet about some of our Cherokee traditional foods, and then gave the books to the students and teachers. We didn’t have a survey for the taste testing, but out of 15 children we only had one child turn down the food. Some of them talked about gathering polk, wild onions and other foods with their elder family members.

How has this project impacted your community?   

Hopefully, it will continue to increase in awareness that traditional foods are a part of our past that has sustained us and kept us healthy. Community and family gardens were essentials in access to fresh healthy foods, and physical activity was a part of staying healthy.

Traditional foods education in the classroom. Photo courtesy of Cora Flute.

What are your plans to sustain this project?    Our plans to sustain the project will be to expand on initiatives such as community, school and tribal worksite gardens and continue with the next step of utilizing that network of community members, students and tribal leaders to work on policy development and implementation such as farm to school policies and tribal procurement policies and working with local food policy councils to implement easier ways for businesses, schools and community members to procure food through local farmers that will, in turn, help generate a better farming economy, increase the number of Cherokee farmers and create more opportunities for Cherokee people to make the healthy choice.

Shane Dominick playing stickball with other employees. Photo courtesy of Cora Flute.

Special thanks to the Cherokee Nation Healthy Nation team,  particularly  Ms. Cora Flute, Public Health Educator, and Shane Dominick, Cultural Specialist, for sharing their time and stories. For more information on the Cherokee Nation Health Nation program, contact cora-flute@cherokee.org or shane-dominick@cherokee.org.

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2 responses to “Cherokee Nation

  1. I remember my Mother and my sisters and brother gathering poke weed early in the spring. This recount of people returning to eating traditional foods brought back great memories. I will be looking for those young poke plants next spring. Thanks for the memories!

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