A Cherokee Plant-Based Perspective
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FROM Rev. Bryan D. Jackson, VegansMakeADifference.com
August 2020

I have great faith in the future; both my own and the future of those whom we might influence to try the lifestyle which we have found so empowering.

Rev. Bryan Jackson

About 23 years ago, while in clinical training, I told a colleague about a television special that I had seen the night before. It seriously spurred me to consider halting the practice of eating animals. I tried but failed because, like so many Americans, I was addicted to meat-eating. Many years later, in 2014, after watching Forks Over Knives, I decided to go plant-based. I was doing quite well for the better part of a year, lost fifteen pounds, and was feeling great. But I faltered again. For reasons I cannot explain, I didn’t stay with the lifestyle. During those intervening years when I lapsed back into eating animal food, I became increasingly sick and my mental and emotional health suffered as well.

I am a thirty-four year testicular cancer survivor. Due partially to the extreme treatment from that experience, which consisted of radical surgery and weapons-grade chemotherapy, I have long been immunocompromised. In 2008, I had two heart attacks in a 24-hour period. A year ago I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. I’ve thoughtfully chosen to decline chemo, radiation, and the standard bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) treatments. In October of 2019, I went plant-based once more with no intention of reverting to animals as food. If ever there was a motivator, it is another cancer diagnosis and the fortune of cardiac crisis survival.

I am blessed with a veteran naturopathic doctor (ND) who has guided me through life-threatening and life-altering events of the past twenty years, as well as a wonderful MD with whom I have recently initiated a relationship. The latter is a whole food, plant-based provider. With their support, and the support of my wife on this slightly-beyond-midlife journey, the future looks considerably brighter. I am in good hands.

I am both Western European and Cherokee Indian by birth. My Cherokee heritage is extremely important to me, and I take our ancient ways seriously. Part of that ideology is what was once primarily a plant-based (what we now sometimes refer to as vegan) lifestyle, due mostly to necessity. My earliest Cherokee ancestors ate wild potatoes, corn, squash, soups from each, fresh fruit given to them by the trees, and all manner of nuts and seeds. They also ate meat such as fish, deer and small game occasionally. When the animal was killed, a prayer of thanksgiving was offered up to the Great Spirit before the animal was prepared for consumption. Today, we have every reason to be vegan. The research and anecdotal testimonies demonstrate that. The animals and fish must be permitted to thrive.

When I was in seminary, my thesis-project for the spring of 2000 was titled, “Theological and Pastoral Implications of the Human-Animal Bond.” This education had followed a decade of professional dog training, during which time I developed a bond with the canine that I am still unable to fully articulate. As I reflect on both my Judeo-Christian and Cherokee heritage, I am struck by the profundity of the impact of personally avoiding the slaughter of animals for my food, while embracing the celebration of receiving far healthier nutrients from our plant relatives. They call out to me for joyful consumption while my animal family members cry out for the freedom they deserve. To add my own spice to a popular saying: If it had a face or a mother, look for another.

Participating gratefully in the plant-based lifestyle may be the healthiest thing I’ve ever done for myself. It is certainly something over which I, as a returning cancer patient, have complete control. A baseline of personal healing is established; no doctors required. It’s vital to comprehend that this is not merely a “diet,” a word I’ve tried to avoid using here. Unlike so many faddisms today, plant-based eating is backed by powerful and serious science, such as Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study, a book I recommend highly.

As it stands, I’m once again losing weight, the arthritis that was assaulting my hands, knees, and neck has subsided, and my bladder discomfort has eased in recent weeks. Time will tell with respect to having another cancer but I can testify that the angina that sometimes plagues heart attack survivors is essentially non-existent with a plant-based lifestyle.

I have great faith in the future; both my own and the future of those whom we might influence to try the lifestyle which we have found so empowering.

Gadugi! [Gah-doog’ee] (Cherokee for “working together” or “common labor.”)

Visit Bryan's website at https://www.cherokeepenandsword.com/wholefoodplantbased.html

Vegans Make A Difference is here to give vegans a voice! In STORIES, vegans relate why their choice became one of the most powerful decisions of their lives, rooted in the philosophy of compassionate living. They give touching and heartfelt testimonials of why we must expand the circle of compassion to our non-human friends, celebrating each and every one of them as unique and beautiful individuals.

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