Traditional Wellness Coordinator helps community members to reconnect to culture

SIX NATIONS – Cindy Martin digs out a resource from her desk that she has used for years to help people envision their personal journey. It resembles a tree ring – there’s a circular core, and then rings upon rings that extend outward. 13 layers in total that spin so that the user can design their own pathway. She calmly points to the core and reads the words listed, “Caring, Happiness, Calm, Sadness, Anger and Fear.” After pausing, she adds, “Whichever one of these emotions is dominant becomes our fire, and the fire radiates outward as we live our lives”.
The remaining rings in the resource ‘Reconnection Journey Through The Tree Rings’ address which components of being – mind, body and spirit – are most affected by our personal fire, and how to strengthen them with medicines, activities, community, and objects to live mindfully. Hearing Martin describe her resource is grounding enough in itself – she has a sense of peace and wisdom that makes you feel like you’re in safe company.

Martin has been working as a Traditional Wellness Coordinator in Six Nations since 1995. First at the Birthing Centre, and now working out of White Pines Wellness Centre, her work revolves around connecting community members in Long Term Care to traditional modes of wellness through the many resources she has developed during her tenure. Our traditional teachings, she says, are at the core of our wellness. In motivating others to eat well, be active and mindful. It is imperative to understand the teachings of our people to strengthen their intent.

The Tree of Life Food Guide, developed in 1995, is another one of Martin’s projects. It shows the seasons, ceremonies and foods that make up our traditional food system. The Healthy Roots food list is based off of this, and has been successful thus far in helping four participants lose weight, connect to their teachings, and in one case, reduce the amount of diabetes medication needed by half.

Another food guide is based off of this – The First Nations Food guide released by Health Canada in 2007. While their food guide addresses traditional foods consumed across Canada, The Tree of Life Food Guide is locally based. Martin worked with elders in the community to develop the guide, and in a letter from Jake Thomas she received the advice to focus on Iroquois traditions and customs “to uphold them, protect, and keep them very near to the soul the way the Creator ordained.”

As a result she completed the food guide and accompanying resource book with teachings, foods, recipes, tutorials that are specifically relevant to Six Nations people.

Martin shared that her own personal pathway in life is in helping others as they seek to connect with culture and strengthen their spiritual well being. While she usually receives visitors through Long Term Care, those interested in her work can call her office at 519-445-2809 and she will work with you directly or refer you to others in the community who can also help. In the meantime, you can follow aspects of The Tree of Life Food Guide by viewing a traditional foods list on

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