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Updated: Oct 4, 2021

This is one of those unique words in the English dictionary (originally sourced from the Dravidian language spoken by my ancestral folks) that refers to a citrus fruit and coincidently also describes the color of this fruit. These are commonly known as homonyms. But in 1973, this color symbolized the start of a revolt against the 'stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations', when an orange shirt that Phyllis Webstad wore to a residential school, just outside Williams Lake, B.C. in Canada, was snatched away from her by the school authorities. From 1831 to 1996, over 130 federally funded, church-run residential schools were attended by more than 150,000 Indigenous children in Canada, as they were forcibly separated from their families for extended periods of time and punished for acknowledging their heritage and culture or even speaking their own languages.

These atrocities and traumas came to light in 2021 when nearly 1000 unmarked graves were discovered using ground-penetrating radar at the sites of former residential schools. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission chair Murray Sinclair determined that,

An estimated 6,000 children died while attending these schools... Students were often housed in poorly built, poorly heated, and unsanitary facilities.

I applaud the efforts of the Canadian government to declare September 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (annual statutory holiday) that commemorates the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families and communities, #orangeshirtday I strongly stand in support of the Indigenous communities and recognize that #everychildmatters

How is this related to the core purpose of Neoveda?

Indeed, the social and cultural fabric of the Indigenous population have included their celebration of traditional foods, medicines and spiritual integrity. For centuries prior to invasion, Native American tribes had employed traditional and sustainable conservation practices such as the use of controlled fire regimes for revitalization of native flora, natural grazing, grazing pastures in rotations, judicious harvesting of plant and animal food resources, reliance on the natural cycle of seasons to harvest foods and allowing the natural food resources to recycle, bio-conservation of native aquatic life, and overall preservation and protection of native ecosystems. Doesn't this feel like déjà vu when you look at what environmentalists and nature enthusiasts are trying to accomplish today?


Facepalm is apt. The traditional Indigenous lifestyle that had ensured the health and longevity of Indigenous Elders and their communities, was also gradually stripped away over time as they were forced to acclimatize to non-traditional diets introduced by settlers and immigrants. The consumption of diets that are hyper-processed and calorie-dense led to the rapid emergence of chronic lifestyle-related diseases. Data from two decades of public health reports, and a 2017 national diabetes statistical report show that Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are more prevalent among Native Americans by 16.5% and average life expectancy is 5.2 years less than other races and ethnic groups in the United States. This is definitely alarming!!

In the research paper - Food Diversity and Indigenous Food Systems to Combat Diet-Linked Chronic Diseases, published in September 2019 - the authors focused on the Native American communities and Alaska Natives of the United States, and in addition to strategies for reviving traditional knowledge of cultivation, they have highlighted the importance of adopting diverse and traditional heirloom plant foods that are mostly low-fat, high-protein, complex carbs-based #wholefoods - enriched with phytochemicals and dietary fiber. These included three sisters crops (native colored corn, climbing bean, squash), root crops, native berries, chokecherry, juneberry, Jerusalem artichoke, prairie turnip, lamb’s quarter (plant), and wild plum. When consumed with other non-traditional healthy vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fruits, along with high physical activity and relatively low psychological stress - this lifestyle promoted long term health benefits. From a sustainability perspective, studies have shown that traditional foods that are local to the Native soil ecosystem have an evolutionary advantage and hence are potentially more resilient to #climatechange and #globalwarming. This further drives home the message that we should be eating foods that are locally grown and with the least amount of carbon footprint (thus more affordable), in order to naturally nourish the body and soul.

So now what?

It is the beginning of Fall (another homonym), and I encourage you to make a resolution pact with me. I propose the following three takeaways for you:

  1. Eat foods that are grown locally and in season - If you live in Canada, then check out this cool guide by Sobeys that highlights seasonal foods for your location. If you are in the US, then check out this link by Spruce Eats. Your body and wallet will thank you.

  2. Stay away from heavily processed and calorie-dense foods - The festive season of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas is almost upon us, and with it comes the indulgence in unhealthy food. You don't have to be the party pooper, but I encourage you to set a (low) limit and stick to it. Again, your body and wallet will thank you.

  3. Celebrate and reflect with the color Orange - Here is a short poem I composed.

Orange is sunrise and a shared new beginning;

Reconcile because it's not always about winning.

It could mean culture and sustainable traditions,

Orange is about reflecting to inspire your renditions.

You hold the brush and a fresh bucket of paint,

go create something special without any restraint.

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