Question: I have been vegan for about eight months now because I know it’s best for the earth, animals, and my health. However, I have been looked down upon by the Native community because it is not traditional. How do I approach this issue?
Thank you for your question. There are a few aspects to this question that I think are important.
1st, who are vegans? Veganism is a dietary choice that many native people are exploring. Generally, vegan refers to a person who does not eat or use animal products, including wearing clothing made of animal products. People become vegan for a variety of reasons; political, health, environmental and/or the love of animals.
2nd, what does it mean to be “traditional”? There are hundreds if Tribal nations with many values and traditions around our relationship with the natural world, including food. In many tribal traditions, our diet was primarily plant-based, as game was traditionally difficult to access. In many traditional creation stories, the original food sources are described as the “Three Sisters” consisting of corn bean and squash. Rita Laws, Choctaw states “In the past, and in more than a few tribes, meat-eating was a rare activity, certainly not a daily event. Since the introduction of European meat-eating customs, the introduction of the horse and the gun, and the proliferation of alcoholic beverages and white traders, a lot has changed.”
Margret Robinson, Mi’kmaq, stated, “If, as our Mi’kmaq legends suggest, animals are our siblings, then how can we justify their treatment as objects within the hunting, fishing and agricultural industries?”
This begs to question what is traditional. Traditions also change and many people do not have access to a purely “traditional diet” or lifestyle. Native American people have survived since time immemorial because we are able to adapt and change to the world. Your choice to make a lifestyle choice of veganism is your choice and is arguably in line with a more traditional lifestyle.