Pictured above, George Skin peels back the bark from a poplar tree
“We shouldn’t be afraid to share our information on making medicines. Each and every one of us will make medicines different. There is never two the same. We have to have faith in the medicines that we make and we have to consider sharing it with our family, our children and our friends. We have to keep the medicine going. We have to pass on the knowledge.” - Doris Thomas, Skin Tyee
Our Carrier medicine encompasses so much more than just a substance that is used to cure an illness. Our medicines are holistic and encompass every facet of life, from the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the way we treat people and objects around us and the way we treat ourselves. Our traditional way is to focus on staying happy and healthy and strong. Some Carrier healers focus more on the physical health aspect of medicine and others focus on the spiritual and emotional aspects or a combination of both.
Many of our knowledge holders and medicine practitioners from our Traditional Medicine Research Project felt strongly that their knowledge of traditional medicines needed to be shared and passed onto others. It is in the spirit of honouring their wishes that we are sharing some of the information they provided in this five part blog post series.
There are specific methods and mental processes that our participants deemed necessary to follow when harvesting, preparing and using traditional Carrier medicines. The practitioners had different views on the best places to pick medicine, but all agreed that the sources must be away from contamination by people, animals or industry (especially herbicide spraying). The healers also shared that plants which grow near clear water make stronger medicines.
“You’re not supposed to pick medicine where there’s lots of people. You’re supposed to pick up medicine way up in the mountain.” Angeline Patrick, Stellat’en
A mountain on which our participants harvested traditional medicines
Many of our participants noted that in order for medicine to work, you have to wholeheartedly believe in it, combining the physical with the spiritual and emotional. A few spoke of holding a vision of the medicine working from the time they picked and processed medicinal plants, right through to the time it is administered and afterward. Some also mentioned that they prepare for medicine harvesting by bathing in water infused with specific medicinal plants prior to going out.
“Make sure that the area you pick medicine from is clean and make sure you respect the medicine that you pick. You have to be careful with the medicines that you pick because it's sacred and you’re using it for people, so you have to respect the medicine like you respect the people. You always have to cleanse yourself and have clean thoughts. I was taught to do medicine you have to bath in a certain medicinal plant before you go out to pick medicine, I bath in red willow bark and Saskatoon bark before I go out.” Irene Skin, Skin Tyee
“When you make Indian medicine, you have to believe it with all your heart and if you don’t believe in it, it will not work. (While picking medicine) I’m praying to the creator so my medicine works.” Bernie Ketlo, Stellat’en
Many of the participants talked about the gratitude they have for the provisions of the earth to keep us healthy. They said that our medicines are a gift which should be provided to anyone who needs it, many stressing the point that medicine, in its very essence, is meant to be shared.
“This was given to us by god and its very sacred. Its given to us for free, so we are not supposed to sell it. You have to share it. If you make medicine you have to share it. It’s a gift from god so you have to give it back.” Madeline Johnny, Saik’uz
MaryAnne Adam instructing youth on traditional medicines at a CSFS Youth Culture Camp
Most of the knowledge holders who took part in our project stressed the importance of teaching medicine to others, especially to youth. Teaching and sharing the knowledge is vital to our traditional medicine practice staying alive. They shared over and over again that their medicine practice and the knowledge they hold about medicines are not for sale. Most of the participants felt that this knowledge should be shared freely with anyone willing to take on the responsibility of becoming a healer.
“What I tell you about Indian Medicine is what I’ve learned and heard myself. This is the reason why we are here today. To learn from one another because we all have our own ways of doing medicine. Because of the common knowledge and common sense, we have to start writing things down so everybody knows what we know. After we’re gone, we have to pass on the knowledge and the tradition.” – Alfred Joseph, Yekooche.
“I like what you are doing now, Young little kids they’re going to learn from us through what you are doing.” Alec Johnny, Saik’uz
“We’re so happy that you are doing this. We are so happy that you’re trying to do something about the old ways. We need this done for our grandchildren, our great grandchildren. They should all know this and they should all learn about this.” Madeline Johnny, Saik’uz.
CSFS Youth Culture Camp participants learning about medicines
To learn more about the philosophy of respect in relation to harvesting medicine see our second blog post in this series. To learn about the different types of traditional healers, check out our third post in this series. Watch for our next up and coming, and final blog post in this five part series, which will focus on animal medicine and hunting preparation methods shared by our participants.
© Carrier Sekani Family Services, 2016. Written/compiled by Marlaena Mann. All rights reserved.
Aboriginal Health Sciences FNST 282-3 (2004) Carrier Sekani Family Services and the University of Northern British Columbia
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Last modified: Monday 06-Jul-20 16:02:04 PDT