Scientists have been skeptical of the theory of firehawks spreading fires by carrying burning sticks. The Aborigines have known for centuries, maybe even for millennia, what scientists are discovering today.
There have been other instances of scientists discovering what North American Indigenous people have known all along. Native medicine is getting a second look from many scientists, but unfortunately, many are sponsored by corporations to make money. I see it more as an exploitation tactic as opposed to wanted to heal the sick. The medicine making the rounds on social media is chaga, check out the article and others at the bottom of the page.
While the exploitation might sound devious, how are our many urban “Indians” supposed to have access? It is doubtful that there are enough medicine men around to spread the healing practices to all our people. Capitalistic marketing is what is used today and may be the only viable way to get our medicines to people. I have no idea what else might work, maybe we will have a better system someday. If one of my readers have a good idea, please comment on the Facebook post.
I have personally used wacask ōmīcowin – rat root, for a headache. I still need to get some off my son who has a nice batch of it. I have gone on a field trip with one of my instructors to explore areas and identify Native medicine. This was all good because I got to see for myself, the work it would take to gather and prepare the healing remedies.
As a boy, I had chicken pox in the trapline. My grandfather – nimosōm, took me out on a trail to gather spruce gum. He boiled the chucks that we gathered, but I am not sure what else might have been in it. When it was ready, I placed generous amounts on the affected areas to sooth the itch. It was great to get that kind of relief. We went back to the rez soon after, and he made more when we got to my parent’s place.
As a boy living in La Ronge on the rez of 101, I had an accident. I was playing with a friend of mine; we were throwing small roof shingles at each other to see if we can dodge them. He grabbed a bigger piece than usual and asked if I could dodge it. I said: “haw haw” meaning go for it. He got me right above the right eye, I bled like heck. All I saw was red and I could see my friend hovering over me and try calm me down. We were about 5-6 years old at the time. When the bleeding was controlled, they didn’t take me to the hospital or clinic, nōhkom took me to the muskeg area and we gathered Labrador tea leaves. When we got to the house, she applied it over my eye and added a dressing over it. It was changed several times, over several days (I cannot remember how many times). Eventually, my cut was healed.
As an adult, working for the Gift of Language and Culture, I had been sick for several days. I went to work when I got a little better and told my female colleagues what I was going through (you know how men are, just kidding). One of my co-workers had this concoction of “Indian” medicine. The only ingredient I remember is rat root. Anyway, I made some tea and added a half teaspoon and the symptoms eased right up before lunch. This was after two more teas over the medicine I put in earlier. I was skeptical about the concoction, but I could not explain the way this stuff worked.
I have many colleagues and friends that gather Native medicine, but I hesitate to ask for any because I feel like I should go get it myself. I had hoped to get more into our medicines, but it is difficult to make the time in our “assimilated” way of life. I have work, family and relaxing time, so finding sources of medicine is one thing, it is entirely another to gather and prepare. I can see why it was usually medicine men or women that did all the careful gathering and preparation for their people.
Now to the skeptics. I have been one of these skeptics for the longest time even when I was obviously treated with “Indian” medicine a few times. It may be the spiritual aspects of the practice that throws people off. The ceremony of rising tobacco to the four-directions or giving tobacco to a medicine person, seems a bit arbitrary to one who is not raised to follow Native Spirituality. I have asked such questions before, only to be met with condescending answers, not very helpful. I may have come across as arrogant and rude, but the answer of spirits needing appreciation, did not sound right to me.
I have benefited from the use of medicine but I do not remember being told to offer tobacco. Many people in my area, were assimilated to the fur traders ways. We had a close relationship and still do. Of course, racism rears it’s ugly head on a daily basis, some days are better than others, but I hope things get better and I do not wish to elaborate at this time, maybe another article.
Obviously I was grateful and appreciated the healing from the plants. To the people who gathered and prepared it for me, I am very grateful.
When Scientists “Discover” What Indigenous People Have Known For Centuries
In the early 90s, Wahoo McDaniel was no longer on TV. I wondered if there would ever be another great Native American wrestler to put on great matches for the masses. I thought maybe the Ultimate Warrior might be native, but he was something else, to this day I’m not sure what he was supposed to be.
One day on WWF Superstars on Saturday, there was this spectacular individual, majestically running to the ring with colourful feathers. He was not just any wrestler or just any Native American, he was heavily built like a bodybuilder. He looked awesome: muscles, power and speed. I could tell he would be a big star. He made short work of many of his opponents.
I had seen him before, but he had a different name, “The War Eagle” Chris Chavis. I read about him on the old Apter mags such as Pro Wrestling Illustrated. At the time, I wondered if he would make it to the big leagues at some point because there were no prominent Native American wrestlers on TV. I was happy to see Chris Chavis become the great Tatanka.
His first two years, he went undefeated. He had feuds with Rick “The Model” Martel, Bam Bam Bigelow, and won the 40-man Bashed in the USA battle royal. I was proud of the man for his place in the wrestling industry. I was witnessing his career going so well after missing much of Wahoo McDaniel’s wrestling career. I thought Tatanka would become a champion for sure.
“At WrestleMania IX, Tatanka received his first televised title shot in the WWF, against Shawn Michaels for the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Tatanka won the match by countout.” This was another win, but unfortunately, titles cannot change hands on a countout. I was happy for the win but disappointed at the outcome of no championship.
Vince McMahon and his company should have just given him the title. It would have been “over” because the fans were so into the Native American. If Vince had any concerns, he should have thought about the merchandise money that would have come flooding in for him and Tatanka. Tatanka would have looked awesome with the belt strapped around his waist. A missed opportunity from WWE (WWF, at the time).
I remember as a boy watching wrestling with my parents, along with nisīmisak – my younger siblings. There was this Hawaiian wrestler named Dean Ho and his buddy Moondog Moretti. Dean was an old man by that time, but he was the main good guy. I must have been 5 years old at the time, it is mostly a blur but the times he won his matches were exciting because we were all cheering for the good guy.
There was another wrestler, but I cannot remember his name. He was an “Indian” wrestler, an Indian or First nations. He would get the beat down but then a drum would start beating in the background and it would give him “power” to get out of the hold. Great times to be a wrestling fan. This was all on a channel from British Columbia called All-Star Wrestling.
As I got older, I noticed another Native wrestler, his name was Wahoo McDaniel. He had a spectacular presence and a “tomahawk chop” that almost broke the sternum of any hapless man to get in the way. In 1986, he had this memorable feud with a Russian wrestler named Nikita Koloff. The feud was called the “tomahawk” vs. the “sickle,” which was a reference to the Russian sickle on the flag. I searched for this match online to no avail, so sad.
They both had their titles on the line, the National Champion, Wahoo and the United States Champion, Nikita. The winner would then amalgamate the titles into one because the company thought there were too many belts on TV, WTBS channel. I personally thought Wahoo should have kept the title because it was cool to have an “Indian” as champion. I could not find a free image of Wahoo, but at the bottom of this blog, there is an embed video of Wahoo vs Ric Flair in a “chop” battle.
I had such high hopes for a Wahoo win, but he was beaten. Wahoo was in the twilight of his long successful career and the so-called, Russian Nightmare, Nikita Koloff, was hotter that a firecracker on the fourth of July. He was being groomed for bigger things and Wahoo was used as a steppingstone, which I am sure he gladly did because even he knew that he had to job to the raising young star.
He wrestled 10 more years until his retirement in 1996. Unfortunately, he died of kidney failure “on April 18, 2002 at the age of 63” (https://wrestlerdeaths.com/wahoo-mcdaniel-death/). He left a great legacy for other Native American wrestlers such as Tatanka, who went on to became one of the most recognizable wrestlers in the 90s.
The First Nation Stories Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/firstnationstories/) recently reached over 1500 likes. It has been a long time coming. I appreciate all the followers from the beginning and to the new ones the page gets each week.
From the words of Cree Teacher, Simon Bird – kinanāskomitin = I thank you/I am thankful for you/I am grateful for you (#CreeSimonSays).
I remember when I was about 10 or 11 years old and nimosōm – my grandfather told me that he used to have a dog team. It was fascinating to hear about the places he travelled with his team. It was places nearby but hearing it as a young boy, it sounded so much more glamorous and seemed to be in faraway places.
It was all well and good when he told me about what he used to do, but he started telling me that he was planning on getting a NEW dog team. I remember being very excited about it and thought I’d be able to see it happen and maybe try it myself the next winter.
He was able to get a big male and a female husky. We were in Pesiw Lake that summer when he acquired the dogs and we moved them to Hall Lake in the early fall. By the next spring, there was pups, many with big feet that nimosōm said, meant that the dogs were going to be big.
I picked out a puppy myself and it turns out nimosōm picked the same one. piyakwan awa kōtinahk, kitīminow awa – we picked the same one, this is our dog. I honestly didn’t know how that was going to work, but nimosōm seemed happy about it and I didn’t ask how it would work if he had to go back to the trapline.
It might have been a week or two later that the situation did not matter. I went for a walk with my friends and near a culvert lay a dead puppy. I was not sure at the time, but it kind of looked like mine. I was upset; however, I hid my feelings from my friends and just went home. I’m glad they didn’t ask why I had to go home, back then; we hid our feelings from each other because only we thought only little kids cried.
Later that evening, it turned out that my puppy had gone missing. A man we called mahkistikwān – big head, had killed and ditched it near the culvert where my friends and I saw it. It was very disheartening for me. I have never had a dog since, not because it was so heartbreaking, but because I decided that maybe it’s too much responsibility.
On February 2009, nikī-akosīn – I was sick. My head was killing me, and phlegm escaped from me with a vengeance. I had a dream of being dead and getting up in another dimension of sorts. The dream was confusing at first, but I was able to recall everything. The following is a present-tense narrative of that day/night.
I go to bed and hope the pain is gone in the morning. My flu-like symptoms ravaged me since the day before and I wonder how much longer I will suffer. I lay in bed hoping sleep will come soon as I close my weary eyes and hope the pain goes away.
I open my eyes to know that I am better, I sit up on my bed and see a strange sight before me, I see myself lying on the bed. I am astonished to see myself, am I still sleeping? I get up to look once more. This place I live in 101 Reserve used to be jumping with activity. I get up to walk to the hallway and as I walk I can see that it is daytime, something I did not notice when I got up because my windows were covered with a dark blanket.
I go into the hallway and look ahead. There is activity, I see my late auntie Jill in the kitchen area looking after some children I do not recognize. She talks to them and feeds them. She has the look of happiness as she smiles and comforts those who seem to need her and her caring demeanor. As I look while I am halfway through the hallway, my late grandfather comes out of my then living grandmother’s room. He looks at me: “tīniki kā-pīkīyokīn” (thank you for visiting) he says.
As he walks me through the house, he tells me that Jill is taking care of children who have passed at an earlier time. The children were unfamiliar to me and he said I would not know them, they passed before I was born. Jill is their caretaker who is looking after them at this time. I asked about his late father Daniel and he said that he was out visiting the living to see how they were doing. I asked what he was doing in my grandmother’s room and he said he was visiting her. He said we can’t be seen by the living and we can’t see them unless we allow it to happen. He said he was just checking on her to see how she was doing. My grandmother was doing fine at the time and she loved having me and my daughter in her home.
I didn’t step out of the house but I imagined it looked the same as it did before I passed. My grandfather said I can visit who I want but not to let them see me, it would be too frightening to the living. I look to watch my late auntie Jill taking the children out to play, she did not acknowledge me. She was too busy taking care of the children. My grandfather had his arm on me and hugged me and thanked me again for visiting. Visiting, I thought I am just visiting, maybe I am still alive, I thought of my body on the bed.
I wake up in the same position as I was when I was sleeping.
I told very few people of this dream but it has been on my mind for the longest time. It was a great dream to have.
ī-wāpahtamān niyaw kāpasikowān – I saw my body when I got up