March 18, 2008

Saying no to white man's tobacco

Tobacco culture not nativeAccording to Henderson, the tobacco industry has long targeted Native Americans as a subgroup for its products, using Native American images and names to market its products while also sponsoring tribal rodeos, athletic tournaments and powwows with money and handing out cartons of cigarettes.

“It worked,” she said of industry hooking its target.

Commercial tobacco today is not what native tribes introduced to the colonists, she said. Cigarettes and other tobacco products are saturated with 4,000 different chemicals, 300 of which are cancer causing. Tobacco’s detrimental health effects on the Northern Plains tribes have been documented and linked to lung cancer, of which South Dakota tribes have some of the highest rates in the nation. Also impacting tribes are heart disease, colorectal cancer, diabetes, SIDS, asthma and developmental delays in children through secondhand smoke.
What about all the Indians who smoked peace pipes and other pipes?Afraid of Lightning said it was a contradiction to his tribe’s value system and a misconception that tobacco was part of the Lakota culture.

“Tobacco doesn’t grow around here, and it never has. What was traditionally used for tobacco was taken from the bark of the red willow tree. … It was never smoked for pleasure or addiction,” he said.

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