Reclaiming Sacred Tobacco – New Documentary Tells Native Stories on Tobacco Traditions

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown November 13th, 2016 Last Updated on: November 24th, 2019

A new documentary exploring tobacco use among American Indians in Minnesota will premiere on public television this month. Created by Dakota/Diné producer Leya Hale with input from Anishinaabe and Dakota elders, Reclaiming Sacred Tobacco features dozens of Minnesota American Indians telling their tobacco stories and discussing how tobacco traditions were corrupted by the commercial tobacco industry. Coproduced by ClearWay Minnesota and Twin Cities PBS, the program shows how restoring traditional tobacco ways can help undo the harms of the tobacco industry and improve health in Indian Country.

“In Minnesota, American Indians smoke cigarettes at a rate of 59 percent – four times the rate of the general population,” said Nicole Toves Villaluz, who manages tribal grant-making for ClearWay Minnesota. “We saw this project as a way to raise awareness of historical and current traditional tobacco practices and to understand commercial tobacco abuse in our tribal communities.”

Told entirely from the viewpoint of American Indians, Reclaiming Sacred Tobacco explores how plants that were four sacred medicines for indigenous people were exploited for profit by tobacco companies, creating epidemic-level health problems for Natives. At the same time, it shows how American Indians in Minnesota are working to restore traditional tobacco practices, to reduce commercial tobacco abuse like cigarette smoking, and to prevent secondhand smoke exposure.

“We plan to share this program with our tribal community partners, where it can help us remember the difference between sacred and commercial tobacco,” said Villaluz. “And we hope the PBS audience will learn about the health disparities experienced by American Indians, and support culturally-driven efforts to improve health equity for our people.”

Unique in the country, Reclaiming Sacred Tobacco has already received national recognition. It has been accepted to three American Indian film festivals, including the American Indian Film Institute's national American Indian Film Festival, where it has been nominated for Best Public Service film.

The program will debut on tpt's MN Channel on November 13 at 7 p.m. and will continue to air on PBS stations through the end of November. Following the premiere, the program can also be viewed on the Twin Cities PBS website and at www.clearwaymn.org/KeepTobaccoSacred.

About ClearWay Minnesota

ClearWay Minnesota is an independent, nonprofit organization that improves the health of Minnesotans by reducing the harm caused by tobacco. ClearWay Minnesota serves Minnesota through its grant-making program, QUITPLAN® stop-smoking services and statewide outreach activities. It is funded with 3 percent of the state's 1998 tobacco settlement.

For more information on ClearWay Minnesota or QUITPLAN Services, call 952-767-1400 or visit www.clearwaymn.org.

Home » Blog » Reclaiming Sacred Tobacco – New Documentary Tells Native Stories on Tobacco Traditions

About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.

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