Obesity. Heart Disease. Diabetes. These are just some of the health issues facing our native communities, which is why the movement to reclaim our indigenous diets and wellness is important. This is why initiatives like Well For Culture are important. Inspired by the knowledge shared through their exercise tutorials and recipes, Native Max reached out to movement ambassadors, Anthony Thosh Collins (Onk Akimel O’Odham + Haudenosaunee) and Chelsey Luger (Lakota + Ojibwe). We wanted to know more about the purpose and inspiration behind the development of Well For Culture.
According to Well For Culture’s ambassador Anthony Thosh Collins, the movement is “an alliance of like-minded Indigenous people from many nations and all directions. We advocate for healthy lifestyles because we recognize the importance of being physical, mentally, emotionally and spiritually sound when striving to build healthy native nations.” The whole idea of Well For Culture was inspired by the Native wellness movement that has already been in full swing, thanks to the generations before us. “Our generation’s contribution to the wellness movement is bridging the gap between fitness, diet and our native cultural values,” the movement explains. “Fitness has always been our way and is relevant to our indigenous cultural evolution. Our original foods are perfect ingredients for building strong, healthy and happy indigenous bodies.”
On their website, Well For Culture extensively covers 2 major topics important for achieving a healthy lifestyle: indigenized fitness and ancestral diet. Indigenized fitness focuses on sharing basic exercise tutorials, dynamic and static stretching utilizing indigenous fitness spaces and Mother Earth Gym (simply using the outdoors and the natural world to exercise). Although not meant to replace a conventional gym, it’s a fun outdoor activity that can offer a great workout if used correctly. An example of utilizing the earth gym would be to squat down and pick up a semi-heavy rock and hug it close to your chest as you perform a series of squats. The idea is to use the same muscle groups as you do when doing a ‘kettle bell goblet squad’ in a conventional weight room. “Logs and stumps are great to use as well, but also just being outdoors and doing activities like running, sprinting, yoga, calisthenics and stretching are also utilizing an earth gym.” Well For Culture adds.
The other vital cause the movement promotes is ancestral diet. “Ancestral diet is important on both an individual and community level. It is made up of various important components that all complement one another: economics, cultural value, health, and ecology––all of these are interconnected and it has always been the case from an indigenous point of view.” The ambassadors like to encourage ancestral foods and finding ways to mix them with other healthy foods and integrating them with daily diets. On their the website, Well For Culture shares extensive tips on how to shift to an ancestral-based diet, identifying ancestral foods, and even how to healthily navigate the grocery store if you’re not ready to adopt the ancestral-based diet.
There are many people behind Well For Culture- some official, some unofficial, from all over Indian Country. Since it’s a grassroots organization, there are thousands of people out in the world who are doing things to offer progress to the Indigenous wellness and are considered a part of the movement. However, the digital side of the organization is operated by a few people who contribute directly. Participants and ambassadors of the movement are big advocates for sobriety, as they feel sobriety will contribute to more holistic health. “Having a clear conscience to understand the complex interconnectedness of our world is crucial for our development, individually and communally.”
With the growing popularity of their beginner tutorials, Well For Culture, with the help of fellow trainer friends, plans on producing a series of videos breaking down the 7 basic primal movements. “We’ll be doing more tutorial videos on how to use equipment like kettlebells, med balls, steel maces, and other multi-function equipment.” The organization is also in the process of developing several exercise systems with more specific target audiences in mind: small children, elders, and women. “We’re always accepting new recipes from all over the country to add to our site. Hopefully, some of the Native Max readers will have a few to contribute!”
Although there are several trends in the mainstream fitness world that is very much derived from indigenous ways, it’s not acknowledged as much. For example, movements that contain the terms “primal” or “paleo”. In terms of Well For Culture, the organization is very protective of some of their methodology, as “we would not like it to become watered down and financially exploited. However, we do understand that these ways do not belong to us and are very open to sharing with all cultures.
Wherever the future leads Well For Culture, the important thing for it is that it remains a grassroots organization with a humanitarian mission that continues to offer useful information and services to others who are hoping to improve wellness. “The difference will be that a lot more people will be involved, and we will probably have some youth who start to take over the reins in terms of social media, operating the website and blog, and even teaching workshops.”
Interested in joining #WellForCulture? If you’d like to contribute content, collaborate or submit ideas and recipes, visit www.wellforculture.com and fill out the contact form!