Healing the Land is Healing my Body
Healing the Land is Healing my Body
By: Kim Smith
Health is not just about what you're eating. It is also about what you are thinking, saying and your environment.
This new year I am reclaiming my health, changing my ways. Why have I decided to change my diet? It’s not for me to fit into a dress like diets of my past, but it’s a matter of survival for me. I have an autoimmune disease called, rheumatoid arthritis (RA). First of all, no one is too young to have arthritis. I wish that was the case! I was diagnosed with RA when I was 16 years old, I am now 34. That’s 18 years of dealing with this disease. When I was first diagnosed I quickly moved to pharmaceuticals for the pain, prior to that I medicated myself with ibuprofen (mostly because that’s what IHS sent me home with). After learning about how bad these are for your body I stopped using any pharmaceuticals.
Studies show that Ibuprofen eats the lining of your stomach, it also takes a major toll on your kidneys. In terms of the steroids that are used to treat RA, they cause many types of cancers, from skin to liver cancers. These "medicines" also take huge toll on your liver so you must be constantly monitored for tuberculosis.
Rhemitoid Arthritis is a type of artritis that moves throughout your body, pain can be in more than one place at once. Your joints become swollen and inflamed. My immune system is basically attacking itself. Our body’s immune system –which normally protects its health by attacking foreign substances like bacteria and viruses – mistakenly attacks the joints. This creates inflammation that causes the tissue that lines the inside of joints syovium to thicken, resulting in swelling and pain in and around the joints. The synovium makes a fluid that lubricates joints and helps them move smoothly. RA also can affect body systems, such as the cardiovascular or respiratory systems, it is called a systemic disease. Systemic means “entire body.” Shitty, I know.
Being a young twenty something in college learning about "decolonization". I started to question my healthcare, Indian Health Service and Pharmaceutical Corporations. My research found that these medicines could make me addicted to them or even more sick. From then on I choose not to put my body through that.
Soon I became a vegetarian, and my relationship with food changed. From that time on I became healthy, running, being active. Slowly I started to eat meat again to get my protein, plus I am a rez girl, it how we do! I started to miss mutton and game. I also started learning about food toxics & mutation. From my Diné lens, seeing Genetic modification, food sovereignty, farm to table projects, critically looking at food & seed for that matter, in my Diné community.
Reconnecting to how my grandparents lived, my ancestors. Planting, growing, harvesting. Healthy AF. The labors of love were then used in ceremony as offerings to our holy people. Seeing and relearning the interconnectedness of our ancestral food to my genetic memory.
Around this stage in my work I also explored fracking in my homeland. Seeing the shifting and fracking of land in my backyard.
For the past couple of years my RA has come back but this time, and has come back stronger. Now there are days that I can’t walk, get out of bed, I can’t even run like I used to. Most of my time in Ireland so far has been in a wheelchair. Most of my major art shows I had to greet people from a chair. This is my resistance to pharmaceuticals, to colonial healthcare. I must go back to strict ancestral diet, minus nightshades. Meaning, no peppers, tomatoes, potatoes & eggplant
My life’s work entails fighting for the land and water. The very reason why I fight is because I know that these diseases are stemmed from the abuse to the land. My grandma died of cancer, my grandfather died from lung disease, both stem from fossil fuel extraction. My disease is stemmed from the same source. I feel that if I am working to heal the land, I must also work to heal myself. I have a lot to learn and am no expert. It is going to take a lot of relearning old ways and discipline. They say that once you have discipline in the your food you can be disciplined in anything. I am choosing to write about it because I know that there is someone out there that is questioning "Colonized Healthcare". We have to relearn and teach this medicines. If we have any chance of healing ourselves, we have to healing our land. Where I come from our watersheds are filled with trash dumps, we have coal fire powerplants sucking the life out of our land, Uranium contaminated our water & now fracking for helium, oil and gas. The land is sick so are we. Our communities are dying from sicknesses that are stemmed for the destruction of the land. It is all connected. The way we treat the land is how we treat ourselves.
"Healing the Land is Healing my Body" is about my journey to reclaim ancestral knowledge for my health but also my journey to healing my families land and watershed. This means cleaning acres of land and watersheds contaminated by trash dumps. These trash dumps are older than me yo! Once these sites are cleaned up, sunflower or hemp patches will be planted as they are known detoxifiers. Swells and other water catchment systems will also be made. Water will be tested from beginning to end to monitor levels of toxicity.
I have worked with Diné communities for the past 10 years on water rights, watershed restoration projects, permaculture, policy, solutions. It is time to put all that knowledge to in my backyard for my health. This will be hard work, but I want to honor my grandparents and the land they nourished. I am excited to see how this clean up along with my ancestral diet will heal me and my family. We have to create solutions to the problems our communities are facing.