Mohawk Medicine: Grand River’s newest Indigenous health and wellness centre
SIX NATIONS – There’s a new place to go for Indigenous centred health and wellness in Six Nations of the Grand River. Mohawk Medicine is the creation of the husband and wife team of Kanenhariyo Seth LeFort and Karenniyo Caroline VanEvery-LeFort. Their storefront operation is located at 917 Sour Spring Rd (2nd Line) in Six Nations.
At Mohawk Medicine, you can get a traditional tattoo, the products you need for a ceremonial feast, over 100 medicinal herbs for various ailments, customized health and beauty products, and the personalized attention of knowledgeable specialists in Indigenous medicine.
Mohawk Medicine has come together as an amalgamation of several different businesses and services that Kanenhariyo and Karenniyo have been providing for some time. Mohawk Medicine uses an Onkwehon:we approach to medicine and healing that addresses the issues of the whole person on a mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional level.
The businesses that make up Mohawk Medicine are Iroquois Ink, Iroquois Organics, and the Feast Basket.
Iroquois Ink is a tattoo shop that specializes in black ink traditional Onkwehon:we tattoos and sacred geometry. Kanenhariyo uses both machine and traditional tattoo techniques. You can see examples of his work on Instagram and Facebook.
Because there are so few traditional Indigenous tattoo artists, many of Kanenhariyo’s clients travel in from afar. To accommodate this need, Mohawk Medicine offers a bed and breakfast rental suite. The apartment has a private entrance and comes with a luxurious king sized bed, a full private bath and shower, TV and high speed internet. The suite is available starting at $150 a night.
For Kanenhariyo, tattoos are an important form of medicine and healing. “Traditional tattoos can be a marker of important life changes – birth, deaths, battles – and each one is unique to the person. Sometimes they help people move past negative experiences and allow them to grieve, and sometimes they mark the beginnings of new journeys. Tattoos are medicine as they help the healing process both emotionally and spiritually for people.”
Iroquois Organics is a line of health and beauty products created by Karenniyo that includes a facial system, a two minute manicure, an anti-inflammatory/arthritis salve, soap and candles, lip gloss, pain ointments, tinctures, tonics, and a variety of teas for various ailments.
In addition to the pre-made product line, Karenniyo custom makes particular formulations to treat certain problems on a case by case basis. So for example, if you have severe acne or eczema, Karenniyo will formulate a medicine especially for you.
Feast Basket is the aspect of Mohawk Medicine that is focussed on traditional Iroquois foods, permaculture gardening, and food as healing. The aim is to not only provide quality organic produce, but to also stock special foods and ingredients that are needed for feasts and ceremonies.
In overcoming the legacy of colonialism, many Indigenous people are re-adopting ceremonies and traditions as adults. In some cases they may not have access to the necessary knowledge or resources to carry through with what they need to do. For example, someone may get a reading done, which tells them that they need a certain ceremony to be put through. Different ceremonies require different items or ingredients for meals. Feast Basket provides a one stop shop where you can purchase these items (such as corn mush, squash, liver, pig’s head, beans, or frozen berries) and ask questions about how to cook or prepare things without feeling embarrassed or ashamed.
In front of the store, clients will see the various food growing efforts. The farm has two greenhouses, a variety of different gardens, and is a place for experimentation with various permaculture and various Onkwehon:we growing techniques.
As Kanenhariyo puts it “There’s a huge need for the revitalization of our health and medicine practices. Western medicine was pushed really heavily on us, but it’s not even that old. Our knowledge has thousands of years of practice and knowledge yet it’s not in the mainstream. We plan on changing that.”
Seth and Karenniyo both have extensive formal qualifications in the non-native world – Karenniyo is completing her PhD in Indigenous knowledge from Trent University. She is a trained herbalist with a diploma in herbal medicine from the International College of Natural Health and Traditional Chinese Medicine, and she also holds a Masters degree in education from Brock University.
Karenniyo has had a stellar career in field of education. But ultimately she came to a place where she had choose behind a professional academic life and doing something that was more fulfilling emotionally and spiritually, and where she could work from home and be around the five children that her and Kanenhariyo jointly raise.
For his part, Kanenhariyo has completed a degree in Indigenous studies at Trent University, holds a certificate in permaculture design, a diploma in adult Mohawk immersion, and has had a lifetime of involvement in traditional Onkwehon:we ceremonial and medicine practices. Kanenhariyo is a co-founder of Real People’s Media and the co-host of the “What’s Going on Podcast.”
As a member of the Mohawk Bear Clan, Kanenhariyo was taught medicine teachings by his elders. In Iroquois society, names are kept within clans and “re-quickened” after their original holders have passed on. The last person to hold Kanenhariyo’s Onkwehon:we name passed away in the 1930s. Interestingly, that man was a herbalist and medicine man from Caughnawaga, who not only provided medicine for Indigenous people across Iroquoia, but who also made medicine that was used directly by the English royal family.
How does it work?
At Mohawk Medicine customers may purchase products or services. Products are either unrestricted or restricted. Unrestricted products are medicines and foodstuffs which are relatively safe to use unsupervised. For example: peppermint, sage, moisturizer, raspberry leaf, or items for ceremonial feasts such as corn mush or frozen berries, etc.
Restricted products are herbs and tonics that might be harmful if improperly used or which might have contraindications if used with other medicines. Examples include bloodroot, valerian root, sassafras, comfrey, and cannabis. To access restricted products, clients must go through a client intake with either Karenniyo or Kanenhariyo to ensure that the product is right for them.
The goal of this consultation is to discuss the patient’s illness and come up with a health plan whether it involves an herbal recommendation, dietary change, exercise regime, or more. As Karenniyo puts it, “the goal is holistic health, on a mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional level.” There is a $60 consultation fee and full client confidentiality.
The initial consultation cost for a tattoo is free, but the follow up appointment when art work is drawn up costs $100. The costs for the actual tattooing is $125 an hour for either machine or hand poke tattoos.
Mohawk Medicine is now open for business from 12pm to 7pm every day of the week. Stay tuned for more details about our upcoming Grand Opening.