Along the Central Coast region of British Columbia, within the Heiltsuk First Nation’s traditional territory, a low-lying deposit of glacial clay can be found nestled within the small bay of Kisameet. First discovered by the Heiltsuk people approximately 10,000 years ago, near the end of the last Ice Age, it is thought that this natural clay deposit originated from a volcanic event that left volcanic ash and glacial water trapped beneath a continental glacial ice sheet for centuries. Over time, this mineral rich deposit settled and remained hydrated by fresh water, becoming an ideal home for countless species of bacteria, which played a key role in the clay’s transformation through biomineralization.
Today, the blue-green clay rests among pristine rainforest flora and boasts a unique mineral composition not found in marine or tidal source clays. The traditional stewards of the land, the Heiltsuk people, protect and respect this precious natural resource and have recognized its healing powers for many generations.
Traditionally, the Heiltsuk people used Kisameet™ Glacial Clay for therapeutic purposes, such as for treating gastrointestinal illness, diabetes, burns, ulcers, arthritis, and skin irritations.
According to a contemporary member of the Heiltsuk Nation, tribal people also employed the clay “…as a trade commodity with other Heiltsuk tribes, and tribes outside our territory. They used to roll the clay up in tiny little pellets and people would eat them every day. It was used almost like a vitamin.” Further historical evidence suggests that the glacial clay was traditionally utilized as a treatment for bee stings, rashes, colitis, neuritis, and phlebitis, and was also used in dentistry and for a number of treatments by veterinarians for animal care.
Research done in the early 1950’s, by Dr. Ernest Hauser of MIT, recognized the remarkable value of the Kisameet™ Glacial Clay deposit, “…not only from a geological and mineralogical point of view but also from a colloid chemical and very definitely from a medical point of view.”
The clay’s healing powers were further documented by the Vancouver medical community in the 1960’s when the clay made a name for itself as an effective treatment for burns at Vancouver General Hospital. Currently, Kisameet™ Glacial Clay is being studied as an antibacterial and antimicrobial that has shown that it is effective in killing harmful bacteria, ecoli, staph aureus, streptococcus, and salmonella. Dermatological research has also examined the clay’s capability as an effective treatment for psoriasis, diabetic ulcers, athletes foot, eczema, and other infections. Furthermore, continued research at the University of British Columbia has explored the glacial clay in terms of its ability to treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria. One researcher even describedthe clay’s potential by saying, “…after 50 years of over-using and misusing antibiotics, ancient medicinals and other natural mineral-based agents may provide new weapons in the battle against multidrug-resistant pathogens.”
Kisameet™ Glacial Clay is unlike any other known clay. With minerals dating back to the Ice Ages, and complex species of microbes that formed over thousands of years, the clay deserves the praise that Heiltsuk legends and oral traditions bestow upon it. Nestled within a pristine location, this natural resource is protected and preserved by the land’s traditional guardians, surrounding flora and fresh water. All of these factors have allowed the deposit’s healing powers to flourish and have contributed to minimizing the negative impact of external contamination. In return, the glacial clay’s mineral nutrients and healing properties have given life and health to the Heiltsuk people and to the flora and natural life that surround it.
Canadian Kisameet™ Glacial Clay:
Written By: Zoë Tomichich
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