Question by evonne: What is the various duties of a shawnee medicine woman?
I am trying to write a paper on a shawnee medicine woman named dorothy white hawk, so i need to know where to look for materials that i can research about her duties. or just talk to a memeber of the shawnee tribe to get enough information for my paper. It’s about her pride in her people and her duties as a medicine woman. It will be a very positive paper. I have great respect for the members of the tribal nations.
Answer by capitalgentleman
It could vary.
I don’t know much about the Shawnee specifically, but I know a woman from a different tribe who could be called a shaman, or medicine women, or whatever. None of these terms comes close to what she actually does, which includes:
- collecting plants for medicine in a traditional manner, which includes the proper prayers.
- interviewing “clients” and making medicines appropriate to their condition. An appointment usually takes a good hour, often over tea. The shaman needs to know what is happening in that person’s life to know what (if anything) is causing the illness.
- developing new medicines. I’ve seen her so stoned on something, she was nearly floating! She had to test them on herself to see what they did, before she gave them to other people.
- trading information with healers from other peoples.
That’s the medicine part. Oh, and she was not allowed to charge for any of it. Sometimes people would gift her, often meat, but, there was never an exchange. Creator made the plants, and the knowledge to be shared. She said this is how you can tell a true healer: one who does not charge.
But, there is a lot more.
- Historian. Keeping the history and “lore” of the people alive, in the stories, in the native language. English translations lose a lot of the essence of what is going on.
- “Speaker.” Being able to speak to other peoples. E.g., the traditional greeting is your language, then hers, then a neutral 3rd language. My friend knew 17 languages and dialects, and was learning 2 more last I spoke to her. She would be like the negotiator between different peoples.
- Exorcist. Removing bad spirits, and helping other, lost spirits get to Heaven.
- Spirits. As well as helping lost spirits find their way to Heaven, she also communed with them. E.g., if she needed help with a particular medicine, she would talk to the women who trained her, which was her grandmother. The death of her grandmother well over 10 years before I knew her was not a barrier to communication at all.
- Demon hunting. Travelling “between” (or on the ether, as she called it), to hunt down demons who are bothering people.
- Skin walking. Coming to people in dreams: often troubled children to give them good dreams, or bringing nightmares to bad people to make them stop being bad.
- Helping people in trouble. She could calm a loud room in seconds (I saw this many times) by exerting an “influence” around her. She could put people to sleep by simply waving a hand in front of their faces. I saw that a lot too! While out for drives, she would have me park outside someone’s house: she could tell they were in trouble, or suicidal, and she would pray, and remove evil from the area.
- fighting evil. Some people develop power which they use for bad things. She would remove the power from these people. It was a very hard thing to do, apparently, but, sometimes necessary.
There is still more: the people of tribe are organized into clans. The shaman were traditionally a specific clan, but this clan also provided the chiefs, and police functions. My friend was also chief at one point (she went to the bathroom during a meeting, and they elected her chief while she was gone!). Being a chief still needs an election amongst her people, but, people of the clan who indicate a wish to be chief are pretty much acclaimed.
So, I have no idea if a Shawnee medicine woman is any of these things. This was just my own experience with a traditional native healer.
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