Wiike grows in woods, marshes and along shorelines. Throughout history, many tribes have dried its roots, either eating them directly or boiling them to make tea. It is a common medicine used to purify blood and many other ailments.
In this exclusive interview with PinP, Dave Daniels, an elder on Long Plain First Nation, says he believes he knows why.
It showed people living there had the highest "premature mortality rate" (PMR) of any Manitobans, aboriginal or not! In other words, they had poorer overall health, a greater number of symptoms, more illnesses and were dying younger than anyone else in the province! The men, for example, were dying, on average, before 65 (compared to 76 for the general population).
Obviously, many things determine the health of individuals and communities. But other points made in the health study are also worth noting in the context of this story. Even aboriginals living in northern Manitoba, further away from spray-fields (even further away from major health centres), were healthier. Fewer than five people per thousand of those living within the (northern) Keewatin Tribal Council, for example, were dying prematurely. That figure within the Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council was more than nine. More than six people per thousand living there had amputations relating to diabetes, also the highest rate in the province. And their rates of referral to specialists, were the lowest.
Meanwhile, Daniels says his Chief and band council on Long Plain are drafting zoning changes to accomodate "safe zones where gatherers can have assurance that their traditional plants will be safe to consume." He believes Swan Lake and Rolling River are doing the same.