Eastern Band Cherokee
Carrying a wealth of traditional knowledge, Onita provides culture-based care for her remote rural community. Her work sheds light on the ways Indigenous and Western practices, often regarded as opposing forces, can complement one another.
Onita’s knowledge of Native plants for medicinal purposes and nutrition has made her an invaluable resource in her community. She teaches others how to use native plants to complement modern medicine to improve overall health and wellness.
Onita is deeply connected to the traditions of her Cherokee heritage and home. Known locally as a root doctor, Onita is recognized for her knowledge of community heritage and medicinal plants. She’s also a Community Health Representative for the Eastern Band of Cherokee in her own community of Snowbird.
She’s a popular speaker at “Rooted in the Mountains,” Western Carolina University’s annual symposium. She presents a variety of cultural topics from a Cherokee perspective, always sharing what she knows with raw honesty and humor.
Onita serves as a board member for the Center for Native Health, an innovative model for tribal community-initiated solutions to health and social issues. Each year, she conducts an informative medicine walk with local health professionals. The popular program helps serve as a bridge between Western-trained health providers and Onita’s community.
“Her breadth of understanding about plant usage and language impresses everyone, especially the ethnobotanist who loves to go out with her for the joy and experience of being with her as she shares what she has been taught from generations of knowledgeable relatives.”
A fluent Cherokee speaker, Onita also participates in the Center’s Elders and Clinicians Gatherings, where clinicians listen to and learn from the insights, experience, and concerns of elders in the community.
Onita shares her ancestral knowledge with the children of the Snowbird Youth Center on nature walks, teaching them how to respectfully gather, clean and prepare edible Native plants that will sustain them.
Onita also shares traditional protocols around birthing support for women in her community. She acknowledges the reciprocity between women and the Natural World.
“Everything comes from the seed,” says Onita. “We would have nothing without it. Women, like Mother Earth, carry the seed. We are the preservers and protectors of that seed.”
Please join me in celebrating Legacy Leader Onita Bush.