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Health Lessons from a Sioux Chief 2 May 2016

Wapasha (1718–1806) was the name of a famous Sioux chief. He lived to the age of 88 in an age of no modern medicine. No drugs, no surgery, no science. That’s someone I’ll listen to.

In 1761 a Sioux named Ixkatapay shot an English trader called Pagonta. It was decided that Ixkatapay would be turned over to the British for the killing. Wapasha led a party of 100 Sioux, to the English headquarters in Quebec to deliver him.
By the time Wapasha arrived at his destination, only he and 5 warriors remained.The others had left with Ixkatapay and returned to their homelands.
Wapasha offered himself to the court for execution as compensation for the crime. The British decided to release him out of admiration for his courage.

I was reading some of his teachings, as recorded by Ernest Thompson Seton, and I present 8 of them below, with my modern interpretation from a health perspective. It’s just more evidence that, as a species, homo sapiens have drifted a long way from many of our traditional health practices. As I continue to document on these pages, and teach on the New Age Primal courses, science is now just staritng to show the wisdom of thousands of years of experience.

1. “In the day of his strength no man is fat. Fat is good in a beast, but in a man it is disease and comes only of an evil life.”

Comment: The purpose of fat is to store energy (white fat) and produce heat (brown fat). There are many reasons for excessive white fat accumulation but there is no doubt it is associated with disease. White fat is deposited by insulin. White fat produces high levels of oestrogen. High levels of insulin and oestrogen decrease thyroid function and increase the risk of diabetes.

2. “No man will eat three times each sun if he would keep his body strong and his mind unclouded.”

Comment: Eating several meals per day is a relatively recent habit. Hunter gatherers were not afforded such luxury. The human body is designed to thrive on short term stresses. Hunger is one of them. It makes us stronger. It teaches us to burn fat for energy. We have more energy, our minds are clearer. The science is clear that regular periods of fasting make us live longer.

3. “If you would purify your heart and so see clearer the way of the Great Spirit, touch no food for two days or more, according to your strength. For thereby your spirit hath mastery over the body and the body is purged.”

Comment: Not only is fasting associated with energy, health and longevity but it is also associated with resilience and teaches us the disciplines that encourage success in many areas of life. Be the hardest working person in the room.

4. “Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise men turn fools. Neither touch food nor taste drink that robs the body of its power or the spirit.”

Comment: Said another way by Navy SEAL Shane Patton in the movie Lone Survivor, “Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards. I’m a lover, I’m a fighter, I’m a UDT Navy SEAL diver.”
The science is clear, “everything in moderation” is fine…but that includes moderate energy, moderate health and moderate longevity. Now that’s not for me but nor is a life of scarcity. I’m here to embrace life and its opportunities but to do that I need energy, happiness and health. The key is to start associating healthy ancestral life-ways with abundance, not scarcity. I don’t want years, energy, or libido stollen from me. I don’t miss the alcohol (which is a mycotoxin), I don’t miss the cherry ripe bars. I don’t want them anymore. I would miss passion, stamina, and strength if I lost them. I would miss my daughters if I had years with them torn from me. Instead, I have found a way to see a healthy lifestyle as abundance and excitement rather than scarcity. I’d rather have a bullet proof coffee, a carrot, celery, dandelion and apple juice and a protein smoothie with raw cacao anyway.

5. “A proven warrior is at all times clean, courteous and master of himself.”

Comment: Or as The great Greek General Pericles, when speaking to the families of the Atenians who had died in the war said,
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments but what is woven into the lives of others.”
We should aim to be examples for our children, not a lesson.

6. “By prayer and fasting and fixed purpose you can rule your own spirit, and so have power over all those about you.”

Comment: It doesn’t matter if we call it prayer, or meditation, or communicating with the great spirit, or Shin-Rin Yoku (The Medicine of Being in the Forest)….the science of mind-body medicine has become very compelling.

7. “Bathe every sun in cold water and one sun in seven enter the sweat lodge.”

Comment: Can you believe that? How did Wapasha know about brown fat activation, mitochondria, thermogenesis and detoxification? As you can see from the posts I write on these subjects, science is now getting very excited about habits that traditional populations have been practicing since the dawn of time.

8. “When your time comes to die, sing your death song and die pleasantly, not like the white men whose hearts are ever filled with the fear of death, so when their time comes, they weep and wail and pray for a little more time so they may live their lives over again in a different manner.”

Comment: I don’t worry about cancer or heart disease, just as I don’t worry about burglary. I live my life so I can squeeze the juice out of every day. I have a strategy for staying healthy and I practice it every day. If I didn’t I’d have to worry. I have no time or inclination to worry. I prefer to act than to worry. I lock my doors and windows at night, I have alarms, weapons and I can take care of myself physically. I sleep very well at night. If I didn’t lock my doors, if I left the windows open, if I made myself a target, then I would have to sleep with one eye open.

It behooves all of us, who have been granted this incredible miracle called life, living on a planet of infinite beauty…to honour both.

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Dr Emerson was recently interviewed on ‘Know the Cause’, the most popular health television programme in the US.

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