Truth and Reconciliation: a Conversation with Tiffany Freeman (Harper)Botanica Health
September 30, 2022
Today, on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we are honouring and celebrating Tiffany Freeman (Harper): her origins, connection to herbal medicine, and ways in which she is honouring this day – as well as her recommendations for how the Botanica community can show up in support of Indigenous communities.
Tiffany Freeman (Harper), she/her, traditional name askîy maskihkiwiskwew, earth medicine woman, is a mixed nêhiyaw iskwew of Treaty 1 (Peguis First Nation) living as a visitor in Mohkinstsis (Blackfoot for Calgary, Alberta), Treaty 7 territory. Professionally, Tiffany is a Registered Clinical Herbalist (AHG), a Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor, Acupuncturist, and a Community Birthworker. She is also an author and educator teaching a variety of courses in schools and community organizations around North America. A mother of three, Tiffany walks the traditions & ceremonies of her Cree culture which is woven into the fabric of her work and creative practices.
Why did you gravitate towards herbal medicine?
I was introduced to herbal medicine at a very young age through my mother’s adoptive family, Mennonites that immigrated from Russia. Through the hard years of living with little means, farming and working with the land they learned a lot about plants medicinally as well for culinary uses. My mother’s brother went on, inspired by his mothers knowledge of plants, to formally study herbalism. Through my uncle and grandmother, herbalism was a constant part of my childhood; red raspberry for my first moon cycle, picking rosehips with my grandma, and treating bites with plantain from the yard.
What is your background rooted in the Indigenous community?
My family is from the community of Little Peguis (or St. Peters Band) which is now located at Selkirk Manitoba and are part of the ten reserve areas that make of the Peguis First Nation. We are treaty 1 people so the first treaty signed in Canada. The location in which my family is from (and many still reside) is the original location of the band before the illegal land surrender of 1907 where many of the Peguis nation people were relocated to what is now the main reserve 1B, Peguis Manitoba. We are Cree, Nehiyawak (neh-HEE-oh-wuk).
How are you honouring National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is one I intend to take slow, it’s a heavy hearted day. I send out prayers, give gratitude for my children, their safety and pray that all children can walk in a world that is changing for the good of all. Our family of five support our community by showing up in our orange shirts, me in my regalia, and we listen to the stories that the elders share with us and sit with our communities. One of my children wears his orange shirt all year round and at least twice weekly.
Any recommendations for the Botanica community to honour National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?
Take time out, send prayers, show support by attending events and making donations to Indigenous led community organizations (any day of the year too). Listen. Have hard conversations. Speak to other non-Indigenous folks about residential school, learn more about it, help continue to break down the stereotypes that exist about Indigenous peoples, read and get to know the 94 calls to action and the 231 Calls for Justice, and in the health and wellness communities take action on the colonial systems that continues to inform the systemic racism that exists in our health care systems, be a part of change.