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Bus carries sacred tobacco message

The mural "Keep Tobacco Sacred" was painted by Jonathan Thunder on the wall of the Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative. (Photo submitted)1 / 3
A Duluth Transit Authority bus is adorned with reproductions of a mural to encourage only sacred use of tobacco. (Photo submitted)2 / 3
Jonathan Thunder (Photo by Michelle LeBeau)3 / 3

If you are downtown or near a Duluth Transit Authority Bus route, you might see a colorful bus advertising a soda drink. Or you may see a bus with larger-than-life television news personalities plastered on its side.

And now you might see a DTA bus advertising tobacco. But it's not pushing everyday use of tobacco for smoking or chewing.

The colorful bus wrap was inspired by the work of Native American artist Jonathan Thunder. Budgeteer readers may remember the recent story on Thunder.

The wrap will adorn a Duluth bus for nine months. Each day the bus will be used on a different route.

The wrap was adapted from a mural that Thunder painted at the Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative (LPCFC), 2424 W. Fifth St., entitled "Keep Tobacco Sacred" and photographed by Ivy Vainio.

"We did the bus wrap because we want to start conversations about the difference between commercial and sacred tobacco," said Jodi Broadwell, executive director of LPCFC.

The smoking rates among the American Indian population in Minnesota is 59 percent, compared to 14.4 percent for the general population. Commercial tobacco-related diseases are the top killers within American Indian communities, including the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

"Traditionally, tobacco was viewed as a sacred medicine central to the culture of some American Indian populations, but for generations the commercial tobacco industry has corrupted sacred tobacco practices," Broadwell said. "They have also marketed directly to American Indian people by exploiting their images in advertisements."

The LPCFC's commercial tobacco prevention work is funded in part by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

LPCFC was founded in 2011 by a group of education, child development, health and social service professionals. The mission of the organization is to strengthen the Lincoln Park Community by connecting families who care about young children. LPCFC offers Anishinaabe Cultural Programming during its Monday Night Family Gatherings, which includes education on sacred tobacco and its traditional uses.