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Aboriginal Youth Identity Series: Health and WellnessSeniors Health and Wellness
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Health and Wellness

Instructional Plans:  Plants Used for Medicinal and Social Purposes

Lesson 1: Aboriginal Communities Used Plants as Medicine

Aboriginal People used the plants, roots, and berries growing around them as natural remedies to cure sickness, they used special plants in important spiritual ceremonies, and they also used plants, roots, and berries to supplement their diets. Many of their traditional methods have been become the foundation for present day treatment of ailments. You may need to peruse the Native Plant Chart in the Student Zone section to familiarize yourself with a few examples of plants that Aboriginal people utilized.

The circle is an important symbol in Aboriginal culture as it represents interconnectedness, equality and continuity. Circles are non-hierarchal and inclusive, and are one of the main tenants of Aboriginal worldview and belief systems. Circles are found throughout nature. For instance, the sun and seasons start in the east and move clockwise to the south, west and north.


Students will:
• Appreciate how Aboriginal people valued plants, roots, and berries to cure ailments
• Recognize that medicines can come from nature
• Create a visual along with a title and description
• Develop creative thinking skills
• Respect Aboriginal peoples traditional practice of utilizing plants as medicine

If weather permit and location permit, take your students outside of the classroom to the school grounds. Once there, they will select one plant leaf, sprig, or twig that they find interesting. Encourage students to select a plant source that could be easily traced.

Upon returning to the classroom, hand out sheets of white paper and crayons to the students. The student may they trace, shade over, or sketch the plant source they have chosen. Students will then think of a name for their plant source. You may have to assist them in writing the name of their plant on the top of their sheet.

Have student sit in a circle as this is an important tradition in Aboriginal communities. This circle will be known as a “sharing circle” as each student will share their drawing, the name of their plant as well as an ailment they think it may cure (there is no right or wrong as students are encouraged to use their imagination).

Conclude this activity by sharing with the students how traditional Aboriginal peoples/communities used a variety of plants, roots, berries etc. to solve common ailments, such as a toothache, to more serious ailments such as burns. Students should also know that not every person in the community knew how to use the plants. Elders were often given a special gift of knowing which plants could be used and what they could be used for. This knowledge has been passed down through the generations.

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