marlboro smoking lady

Tobacco is sacred

Published on July 12th, 2007 13:07

In Brigham City, Rios Pacheco, a member of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, affirmed that not all tobacco is bad.

Pacheco spent several months with young tribal members trying to explain that is the difference between commercial cigarettes and chewing tobacco, which are bad for health, and tobacco used in traditional sacred ceremonies.

He said: “It is a sacred plant. It represents the blessings our ancestors once had.” This was sustained in front of crowd gathered to watch American Indian dancers in Brigham City's Pioneer Park.

This lesson is a part of statewide program “The Northwestern Band's Keeping Tobacco Sacred”, granted by Utah Department of Health with $7,500. This program had as primary aim diminishing ordinary usage of tobacco, which comes in form of cigarettes and chewing tobacco, and honoring the traditional ceremonial use of tobacco. An example of traditional tobacco usage is pipe smoking, which physically does not involve inhaling the smoke.

It was estimated that in Utah near 20 percent of adult American Indians use commercial tobacco, in comparison with 12 percent of population that used to smokes or chews tobacco.

It was detected that American Indian students are also confused about tobacco, said Robin Troxell, health administrator for the Brigham City-based Northwestern Band. There are so many publications and anti-smoking messages while tobacco is used in many of their sacred ceremonies.

Pacheco said that many time ago tobacco during their traditional ceremonies, they regard the tobacco as an offering, a gift. “But they do not take it into their bodies.”

Pacheco awarded with eagle feathers the three Brigham City youths who completed his course - Ty'rheil Bowie, 12; Justin Torrez, 14, and Michael Pacheco, 19 - he gave the two who are LDS books on baptism and the church's Aaronic Priesthood.

Bowie said he previously thought all tobacco was bad. Now, he changes his mind. “Not all of it is. Sacred tobacco helps. It heals wounds. You offer it to the water, the air, the Great Spirit. . . . In smoking the pipe, we're offering it up to the Great Spirit.”

During their classes, boys studied the traditions of various tribes. They noted what tobacco was smoked at ceremonies of thanksgiving and entreaty, given as a gift and was also used as medicine. Pacheco noted that Indians used tobacco to ease the pain of toothaches and earaches and to help those with thyroid problems.

“It is a gift. It is not to be sold,” said Pacheco, “The only tobacco fit for ceremonial use is that grown organically. Commercial tobacco is laced with too many added chemicals.”

Graduates of Pacheco course, next year ought to continue acquaintance of population about sacred part of tobacco.