“We are all visitors to this land, our land has so much to offer, our land is overflowing with the medicines our bodies need, but we are only passing through. With respect, our purpose is to watch, to learn, to grow, to love, to teach. Then we will return home.”
– Caroline Sanoffksy.
This is the quote that is featured on the back of Caroline Sanoffksy’s recently published book: Muskgege, which means ‘medicine’ in Cree. Carol’s book, complete with beautiful illustrations by Nicole Marie Burton, shares her knowledge of harvesting and processing medicines found in Northern Manitoba.
Carol and her siblings, eight in total, grew up on a trapline with their parents, Frances and Abel Hall. It was through her father that she learned how to identify medicinal plants in nature – everything from Kakikepakwa (Labrador Tea) to Sihtapihkwana (Black Spruce cones). Growing up far from major cities and towns, doctors and nurses weren’t easily accessible, so her family often used traditional medicines as remedies for common ailments. Over time, Carol began to store these little pieces of information in her memory without realizing.
It wasn’t until her friend, Loretta Dykun, had suggested that she put her father’s teachings into writing that Carol realized how valuable her knowledge was. “I didn’t even know I had this insight within me, or that I had been sharing knowledge about medicines until she pointed it out and told me I should put it all in writing,” she says in her acknowledgments. When other individuals, including Amanda Froese, our Community Food Facilitator, encouraged Carol to write this book, she felt she had the support to go ahead with the project.
As opposed to many other ‘field guides’, Muskgege is written in a way so that readers of all ages and backgrounds can pick up it up and start identifying the medicinal plants around them. This was intentional. For Carol, it was important that she write this book so that this knowledge could be passed onto the next generation – youth in Manitoba. She didn’t want the knowledge of these traditional medicines to be lost.
Muskgege is eye-opening to the valuable and potent medicines that surround us. Carol’s hope for future generations is that we don’t take these medicines for granted. “Be aware of your environment and don’t waste,” she says. “We are all visitors to this land.”
You can purchase a copy of Muskgege through the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre. Food Matters Manitoba will also be selling a limited supply of copies at our office (271 Portage Ave., 3rd Floor) please contact email@example.com or call 204-934-0822.