High School Student’s Award-Winning Science Fair Project Validates Cancer-Killing Potential of Native American Chokecherry Pudding

The chokecherry tree is native to North America from British Columbia to Newfoundland to the northern half of the US. It’s considered an indigenous treasure because it’s abundant in vitamins and minerals and has long been a staple in the nutrition of Native American tribes. 

According to a recent science project conducted by one Native American student, this fruit possesses amazing cancer-healing properties. 

Destany “Sky” Pete of the Shoshone and Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Idaho and Nevada is a high school student who became interested in the chokecherry that’s regularly harvested and consumed in her community.

Traditionally, the Shoshone and Paiute prepare chokecherry pudding which contains the seeds of the cherries and it’s known as toishabui in the Paiute language. 

The Healing Power of the Chokecherry Pudding 

For a traditional preparation of chokecherry pudding, the seeds of the fruit need to be included. However, Pete explains that a lot of people today only juice the berry and get rid of the seeds which may be wrong because the seeds offer impressive healing properties.

Pete started becoming interested in the seeds of the chokecherry after a talk she had with the community’s traditional leader. He once told her that the reason for the increasing diseases in their tribe was a lack of traditional foods, particularly chokecherry pudding.

Combined with her passion for science, this conversation motivated Pete to work on her school science project for the chokecherry.

Pete’s Science Project Revealed Something Amazing

Pete wanted to test out the hypothesis that chokecherries are medicine and to try and find an answer to the question of whether the traditional preparation of chokecherry pudding that includes the seed helps impede the growth of cancerous cells.

For the experiment, Pete’s high school science teacher Dietlinde Dann connected her with a Boise State University biochemistry professor Dr Ken Cornell who specializes in work with uterine sarcoma cancer cells. 

Pete was given a chance to test four different specimens of chokecherries at the university on uterine sarcoma cancer cells. The incubation period was 24 hours.

The results showed that out of the four different specimens tested, the specimen of the traditionally made chokecherry pudding specimen had cancer-impeding characteristics. On the other hand, the specimens without the seed or the chokecherry juice alone showed no cancer-destructing abilities against the uterine sarcoma cancerous cells. 

In the 24-hour incubation period, the combination of the toishabui and the uterine sarcoma cancer cells led to a small level of cancer cell destruction. Pete noted that a longer period of incubation or a stronger dilution may contribute to even stronger results.

Dreams for an Aspiring Future

Pete notes that the same experiment can be done with other types of cancer cells. She hopes to be able to do this experiment with breast cancer cells. Pete entered the 2017 Elko County Science Fair in Nevada in 2017 after completing her project.

Out of the 440 entries, Pete’s project for the use of chokecherry pudding in the fight against uterine sarcoma cancer cells won the First Grand Prize. The award was a $500 scholarship and several other awards and recognitions from the Navy and the Air Force. 

She also qualified for the International Science Fair in LA, California. She competed alongside 1,800 high school students from more than 75 countries. Despite not winning an award there, she said she was proud to represent her community and proud to be a Native American.

She hopes to enroll at Standford University and wants to major in biology and then go to veterinary school. One day, she wants to have her veterinarian practice.

Thanks to her science project, one can confirm that traditional diets with powerful whole foods aren’t just nourishing, but they’re also our medicine.