Go-ko-ko Odena| Kaa-he-e: Fight the Diabetic Devil


Ahnii …for those, who give a Hoot! Welcome to Go-ko-ko Odena. ‘Go-ko-ko’ is ‘Owl’ and ‘Odena’ is ‘place of many hearts’.

Imagine a sweetener that doesn’t kill you, doesn’t give kids a sugar rush, and doesn’t rot your teeth. It might even lessen the chance of getting diabetes. Diabetes is like a serial killer in our indigenous community. Kaa-he-e definitely does not mess with your blood sugar levels. And you can eat all the sweet cereal you want.

Kaa-he-e has been used as a sweetener by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay for generations. This South American plant is a natural replacement for sugar. It appears to have minimal side effects, unlike sugar and the artificial sweeteners.

It does not replace sugar’s energy, nor does it have sugar’s calories or carbohydrates. Simply, it is sweet.  Kaa-he-e is commonly known as stevia. The leaf extract of the stevia plant called rebaudioside A (aka reb A or rebiana). Reb A is beginning to be used commercially, especially in the soft drink industry.

My mom actually grew some stevia and used the leaves as a sweetener for her tea. What a bonus! It can be grown in Northern Ontario. Just think, a sweetener for tea and coffee drinkers. Can it be used too as a sweetener in jams, pies, chocolate and candy? Ahh and the sweet cereal dilemma. Ahh should I or shouldn’t I? Alpha-Bits cereal is one of my comfort foods. Sweetening with stevia will allow me to eat Alpha-Bits again. Wowser.

Do I ever have a craving for hot chocolate. Hot milk, sweet, sweet chocolate.

In being a natural sweetener, stevia does not have the nasty side effects of sugar and artificial sweeteners. I do not understand why artificial sweeteners, with all the known nasty side effects are permitted in our food. Are the sugar and artificial sweetener industries tied into the pharmaceutical industry?

An amazing make work project, get ‘em sick, get ‘em sicker then hook ‘em on drugs. Money, money, monaaaaaay!

So why aren’t our indigenous health organizations seriously looking into the use of stevia to combat the deadly silent diabetes killer rampant in our communities? We need to help ourselves.  Since, stevia can be grown here we can all combat the diabetes killer together!

I did the internet search and found some interesting commentary. For years, stevia has been government regulated to prevent its use has a food additive in Canada and the U.S. Japan and China are the main consumers of commercial stevia production. Stevia has been available through health food stores.

So the big question is, “Why, why hasn’t it been available?” I would respectfully suggest, simply, follow the money. The competition for the “sweet tooth” of North America has been dominated by the sugar industry. So it appears that the sugar industry managed to have stevia banned in North America.

The ban has been lifted.  So now stevia extract is being used in the soft drink industry. This is where I “discovered” stevia.  Since discovering that I am diabetic, I have to closely watch ingredients especially sugar content. Recently, some of the big pop companies are launching non-sugar based pop. You know, the stuff that is a deadly poison to diabetics.

How many of our relatives and friends have we seen die from diabetes and related complications. Lose a toe, then a foot, next is the lower leg then the upper leg. Sometimes losing the second leg before dying.  Watching people die. One of the most hellish experiences,

Inter-generational trauma. Literally watching a loved one rot away with gangrene. Can we prevent even one loss of life? I know abuse of sugar is not the only cause of diabetes. However, sugar abuse is a major contributor.


First of all, do your own research. Use the internet, check with your doctors, diabetic “specialists”.   Look for info on stevia. What are the side effects? (Some research suggests a lowering of sperm production in rats. I think that was one of the scare tactics used to prevent use in North America, except it does not appear to affect the Chinese.) What are the benefits? What can stevia replace?

Secondly, let’s all try to grow some stevia, then use it in different recipes. We can let each other know what worked what didn’t. Experiment like crazy. A lot of our communities have garden plots. So in addition to growing fresh veggies let’s combat diabetes and grow some stevia!

The third part of the challenge is to get our health services to assist in exploring the uses of stevia.  Just think, the South American Indians gifting us Turtle Islanders a beneficial understanding of a sweetener that does not increase diabetes.



About the Author: Joe Corbiere, grew up in Uptown Rankin Reservation.  He went to high school at White Pines, which was named after Shingwauk.  Joe has had a varied career teaching at Algoma University and working for Mamaweswen, the North Shore Tribal Council. He also worked as a lawyer for a few years after graduating from the University of Toronto law school. Joe is entering his ‘ar-teeest’ period.  He is showing his sensitive artistic tendencies by writing poetry and photographing throughout the Pawatung area.


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