University of Minnesota Duluth
 
 
myUMD | Search | People | Departments | Events | News

Envelope: E-mail Tim Roufs
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

extended search

 

Flying Bird Image

When Everybody Called Me Gah-bay-bi-nayss,
"Forever-Flying-Bird":
An Ethnographic Biography of
Paul Peter Buffalo

Timothy G. Roufs
University of Minnesota Duluth

a note on tenses
a note on style

orignal tapes information

Table of Contents

HomePage

to top of page / A/Z index   to top of page / A-Z index


 

Buffalo Image

32
Spiritual Doctoring,
Tipi-Shaking
and
Bone-Swallowing Specialists
(1)

People are scared of a Medicine Man. They're really scared of one that shakes tipi and talks right with the spirits. We have tipi shakers, ji-sa-kíi. Our Spiritual Doctors are the ones that talk to the spirits. jii-sah-kii means "man who talks to spirit."

gii-sah-kii sa-sIn-in-ii is a Spiritual Man. I-nI-níi means a man. He can be Mide, sure!(2)

But jess-a-kii is also a man that shakes a tipi. jii-sah-kí wIn-nI-níi, that's the proper word. jíi-s^-kíi wI-nI-níi is shaking the tipi, the man that does it. It's the Spiritual Medicine Man that shakes tipi and talks to the spirits he calls in. He's the Spiritual Doctor; jii-sah-kí is a Spiritual Doctor. That's the strongest power there is.

jíi-s^-kíhn, that's a spiritual tipi. o-jíi-s^-kíi is when he shakes it. When he shakes it he sees the spirits that he's talking to.

Those spirits could be anything. It could be any thing, any one, any body. The spirits are called gi-píin-di-ga-wàa, "they came down into his tipi." But you never know who(3). Never!! It could be a bird, a hawk, or somebody that passed away. You never know. It could be crawlers.(4) Why sure!! It could be anything they can call. The ones he calls, the ones the Spiritual Man calls, they come. And when he's done, he lets them go.

to top of page / A/Z index

Pictographs, Spirit or Drum Island, Nett Lake.

Pictographs, Spirit or Drum Island, Nett Lake.
Creator: Monroe P. Killy (1910-)
Photograph Collection, 1964
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. Collection I.69.18 Negative No.

If you lost something, somebody took it, or if you suspect that someone is using his power against you, you go to one of these Spiritual Doctors. "Spiritual Doctor" is how we put it for this type of doctoring. The Spiritual Doctor becomes a Spiritual Doctor by shaking tipi and talking to the Great Spirit. He'll shake a small tipi,(5) and he'll know who took whatever it is you lost. The person who wants to know hires the Medicine Man, the Spiritual Medicine Man, to find out where the stolen thing is, and which one took it. They can find out about stolen boats or anything. They're pretty good. They can tell pretty close. That's why stealing never happens.(6)

And we have a method of knowing when somebody is using power against us, and knowing who is doing it.(7) If anything doesn't go right, if anything isn't just right, if you don't feel good -- if you know that you don't feel good and you're not happy -- then there's something sneaking up on you. Then you begin to think that somebody's overpowering you.

Indians know that power. They get the power from their dreams, from the man that comes to see them in their dreams.(8) They say the Indian is superstitious, but in a lot of places I saw that they learned what to do. They believe in their religion, and that's Midewiwin.(9) That's the Indian religion.

I told a friend just yesterday. I said, "I know who's against me. I know who's against me. I know by the cast of his eyes. The action speaks louder than words. I know who's looking at me. I can tell right in his face what he thinks of my faculty of life. You know as well as I do that if I don't like it, OK. We never say anything about it. We just leave it slide by, ya. "So you're a good man," that's all I could say to a party who was working against me. It's general nature -- to me.

But if you don't have it in your general nature, I don't think there's any other way to know when somebody is using their power against you besides asking the Spiritual Doctor. No. The only way is to go to a Spiritual Man, gii-sah-kahn, tipi shaker. Go and ask him, "I had a bad dream."

He'll say, "What is the bad dream? What is that dream about?" He could understand your dream. He'll tell you, "There's a group working against you," or, "there's a party working against you. Maybe there's three of them, because you saw the crow and the fish and the water and everything."(10)

I don't know any other way to find out, unless it would be because I don't feel well. If I go to a doctor in one of these hospitals and the doctor can't find anything on me, then I know there's somebody working on my health, some part of my health.

And if you feel like you had done something wrong against a certain person that has the power, then you're thinking a lot of him. You think about him all the time. You become aware of your wrong against him, and you wonder if he's the one that is making you ill. So you go to one of these Spiritual Doctors to find out what the problem is.

When a problem like that comes up I get busy, they generally get busy, hunting up those tipi shakers to ask them questions on their health. If there's any foul play by somebody, these people who are ill ask the Spiritual who it may be that's working on them. The Spiritual will tell them who it is. It might be some of your neighbors, or some of your own friends. He will tell you, at least he's supposed to tell you, who it is. The Medicine Man tells you who it is that is against you.

A jess-a-kii is also a Medicine Man. If he's puzzled while he's doctoring, if what he's doctoring don't clear out, then he shakes a tipi.

You know why?

He shakes the tipi to find out if there's any false work from others. You ask the Medicine Man, the tipi-shaker, who's doing it. He knows through the Spirit, through what power he has. A lot of questions have been asked to him, and he tells the answers. He tells you what to avoid.

Then when you ask him to help you avoid that, you will go ahead and avoid it through his spiritual power. When you begin avoiding that foul play, you commence to feel better. He'll tell you what to do to help avoid the foul play. The Spiritual Doctor knows who it is, but sometimes he may not tell you the name of the person. He may or may not tell you the person's name, but he'll always tell you what to do. If you do as the Spiritual Doctor says, well, the results are there.

See, that's a-doctoring. We have some left in the area who still shake tipi and talk with the spirits. We have some Spiritual Doctors left in other tribes(11) too. But you never know who one might be until a guy points him out for you. To find out if someone's a Spiritual Doctor you have to talk to him himself. If you do, he'll exercise(12) you to find out whether or not you believe in him or whether you're just testing to see how much he knows. We do test with him, but once you see just what he can do, you commence to believe him.

You can't go against him. If you do go against him, well, then he's not interested in trying to help you, because you don't believe in him.

They can do anything. Tipi shakers can do anything. They can message(13) and everything. Ask them any questions, they'll tell you the answers.

I kind-a believe they would even turn themselves into a messenger animal -- if they had to. They used to tell about that when I was a boy. I kind-a believe they would, and that's the angle -- they'd do anything! They have power. But I kind-a believe that they wouldn't generally want to go through that act -- if they didn't have to.

Very few like the act of that changing into an animal, so they didn't care much about practicing that. What if they turned to animal then were not able to go back to human? See? I think that's what kind-a slowed that. But there's a story of that that made the Indians feel that they would have power to change into an animal, the same power as that guy Winibozho(14) had. But to do it you have to be good or bad, either way.(15) So I . . . It's a hard point there. So . . . they never cared much about using that. They were satisfied to live the life just the way they live. That's good enough to believe they can do it if they want to. But as far as the message of their belief, they all send messages, and that's good enough. They always believe sending the message with an animal they call in is good enough.

We only have a few of them ji-sa-kii left. But they could make more. They know how to do it. The ancestors -- uncles and all that -- can shift their power over to others.(16) Others can go ahead and qualify, but they have to practice it. And practice makes perfect. They have to know what to do. They have to obey the rules. Boy! there's rules on that!

In any one area there's usually just one Shaking Doctor. In each certain amount of area there's usually just one, but there could be two or three. There could be two, three of them, neighborly, living close together, who would work together. The more we have, the better their religion is likely to be. You see, two or three of the Spiritual Doctors can get together and have a better discussion with their people they lead on, lead with. And by leading with the others they're more respected, more empowered.

See, as I said before, The Spiritual Doctor is doctoring directly with the Spirit. The Medicine Man is a different thing. The Spiritual Doctor, and the Medicine Man, and the beginner in Grand Medicine are all different.(17) They take different staff places.

There are a certain number of certain staffs. The staffs go by what you can work on. There are certain stages of staffs, and your staff depends on the degrees of what you're working on. The Medicine Man has a staff as a Medicine Man.(18) The higher staff Indians can go with the spiritual staff. The highest staff of the medicine is spiritual medicine. The Spiritual Doctor, Jess-sa-kii, is the one who is asked to find out what's wrong, to find out if there's any foul play(19) to this person that doesn't feel good. He's the guy that has all the power.(20) Jess-sa-kii has the power to go ahead and shake a tipi and ask questions directly of the spirits because he has practiced that. The Spiritual Doctor has the power to go ahead and answer your questions through his professional experience. And he's recognized by the Spirit. He's a professional when that tipi moves for him.

Not just anyone can do it. The Spiritual Doctor has the practice of that and he knows the ruling and the by-ruling of that. He has practiced, he's bonafide for that through his old ancestors,(21) and he's seen how they do it. He understands the ruling of this practice through his uncle, ancestor, brother, or whoever has that power.

To be a tipi shaker you have to fast. You have to believe. You have to live right and do what's right, and tell what's right. Do that and you'll get the power, and pretty soon, after you believe, you'll talk to the Spirit, talk to the birds, talk to nature. You'll practice, practice, and pretty soon you'll see it. When you're practicing anything you'll get to be a perfect. That's true. So a lot of them practice.

I had a namesake(22) that had a question come up before him. This party wanted to find something out. My namesake answered, "I gotta fast. In about three days you come back." He fasted on that three days, and he worked on his conscience and mind, and worked with his mind.

Oh ya, we fasted. At times the old people went without food. Then in dreams the answer came. See, answers come natural if you fast and exercise your mind. Everything's natural -- the way you ask for it, and the way it works. It works natural.

After you've fasted, exercised your mind, and learned your dream, you put up a tipi. After my namesake fasts he eats a little of something, and then he goes in that tipi. He gets an answer in there, through his mind. While he was getting an answer that tipi would shake by itself. There's power there and just that power would shake that. I've seen them do it. I've seen them do it, yes.(23)

Those who haven't got the practice to talk with the spirits most generally are afraid to fool with this because if they make a mistake the spirits might kick back against them. There's a kick-back if you make a mistake or do the wrong thing. You have to know how to do this thing before you try it. You have to have the practice of it. You have to learn it, just like any position you want to take in wWite doctoring or as a dentist. You have to have a certain amount of practice and experience of doing things before you can do it on your own. It's the same way with the Indian doctors. They have to have a certain amount of practicing to be an Indian doctor. And when results come from his work(24) he could tell that he has done good for others. He feels well to do what's right.

With a tipi shaker -- most generally with a tipi shaker -- his great grandfather used to be one of the great spiritual predictors(25). And then when he passes away that spiritual belief is handed down either to his namesake or to his relation at the time he was going to his death. He leaves the method to his namesake or relations. He, the namesake or relative, is empowered, and then he's told how to do it. He's told what to fast for, what to go on, what season to work on.

That work is seasonal.(26) And he's told what to do in spring, when the leaves are coming on, and about nature in the fall. He's told what to do seasonal. He's told just like a book. And he keeps that right to his mind. And he's told when to fast, what to do with the stuff that belongs to him that's valued. They hang it out.(27)

That power has been passed on to him. When an elder's spirit passed away, or something happened to him, he was next. He practiced that power, but it also took a certain amount of power passed on to him -- through the power of the Spiritual that passed the power on to him -- to be able to shake the tipi and talk to the Spirit. He gets that through inheritance(28). See? It's inherited power. And you have to practice and you have to train with the Spiritual Doctor. You have to know a Spiritual Doctor and you have to be trained by him. He will tell you what to do.

I think, more or less, the way they go about getting to be a shaking doctor is to follow the old history and the old experience of the old Grandes.(29) They follow the religion, the ruling of the religion. The religion tells the rulings, which you then exercise through the power that comes to you in your dreams. There's somebody that comes to you in your dreams to help you exercise your power.

But not all of them Indians nowadays believe that way. The younger class is coming out of that because it's so complicated. You have to go through a lot of rules and regulations, and obey a lot of things. To follow Midewiwin and spiritual doctoring you have to learn lots from the Medicine Man. You have to learn Midewiwin from the Medicine Man, a real Medicine Man.

They call me a Medicine Man, but I'm not jii-sa-kíi. I have powers and I do certain things. But I'm not jii-sa-kíi. I'm what we call na-nan-dah$-wi-way wI-nI-nii. They call me n^h-nàan-day-wày-i-way I-nI-nii, that's a Medicine Man. That's a doctor of the Indians, "he uses medicine." He's a "Medicine Man" you might as well say for short.

To get to be nah-nàhn-dah-wii-wày-wI-nI-nii you practice the Indian methods. You believe in the Great Spirit's giving the power. Your spirit is there. If you want the Spirit of the Great Master, He gives it to you. If you don't want Him, He don't give you anything. If you believe in Him, He'll give it to you. That's the ways in life. Ya. You believe it, you fast, you have to live a certain life(30) for that. You can't be a fool.

George Wakefield is not jii-sa-kii either; he's a doctor, a Medicine Doctor.(31)

He's naa-nahn-da-wày-i-wày I-nI-níi, Medicine Doctor -- or you can say m^sh-ki-kíi naa-nahn-da-wày-i-wày I-nI-níi, plain Medicine Doctor. m^sh-ki-kíi I-ni-níi, that's a medicine Medicine Man that uses medicine. See, George Wakefield is only a Medicine Man, not a ji-sa-kii. And he doesn't want to be a ji-sa-kii! But Medicine Men are for good medicine. He's a Medicine Doctor and he can make you well, when he goes after anybody. He has the drum and he has what he needs.

But the Medicine Man is acting for a good purpose.(32) The medicine is the herbs that's given to you. Anybody can go pick that if they know it. I could give you the medicine. I can tell you what that's good for, what this is good for, what that's good for. You don't have to be empowered to pick a medicine. It's given to the nature of life.(33) And if you use it right, you'll be used right. na-nan-dah$-wi-way wI-nI-nii is a doctoring in a good purpose. It's the same thing as a Medicine Man, a man that uses medicine.

You put i-kway$ on the end if it's a woman, na-nan-dah-wii-kway$.(34) I'm n^-nàhn-d^-way-wI-nI-níi, total. And my mother would be the same. See, there are Indian women doctors-for-good-purpose too. They're not Spirituals. They talk to the Spirit, sure, but it's just a request that they give. They're requesting you to come forward and get rid of your ailment. That's what the Medicine Doctors are here for. But the Spiritual Doctors are the ones empowered to do your request. Ask them any question and they'll answer you.

n^-nàhn-d^-way wI-nI-níi is a Medicine Man and jii-sa-kii wI-nI-nii is a Spiritual Man. That's the difference. jii-sa-kii wI-nI-nii is a Spiritual Man that works for the Spirit. He talks to the Spirit, on a certain occasion, and in a certain way of his. He's empowered for spiritual works. And nah-nan-wii-way wI-nI-nii is a Medicine Man for good purpose. He's a doctor, an Indian doctor, doctoring in good faith, for a good purpose.

Like many people ask me, "What's my trouble? You know any medicine that could help me?"

Well, I might know quite a few. I'll get the medicine and I'll give it to you. But you have to give me tobacco to thank me on that.

to top of page / A/Z index

Paul Buffalo Meditating Medicine.

Paul Buffalo Meditating Medicine.
Leech Lake Reservation, Minnesota, 1966
Photographer: Tim Roufs

 

to top of page / A/Z index

Paul Buffalo collecting medicine

Paul Buffalo Meditating Medicine.
Leech Lake Reservation, Minnesota, 1966
Photographer: Tim Roufs

But with the Spiritual Medicine Man, the jii-sa-kíi wI-nI-níiî, you have to give him rugs and all that stuff. Yea. You have to give him rugs, mats, clothes maybe. You have to give something you think matches the valuation of your request. Your request may be valued, and you have to give him something of the same value for answering your request.

I've talked to many old timers in my days, in my younger days. There are stories about this Spiritual Indian, years ago. And I asked the old timers about these stories. "Ya," he says, "they didn't understand the White way of life."

"Now," I say, "what about the future?"

"We'll learn more about the betterment of the future when we're dead."

"Uh hun. Then, ah . . ." I said, ". . . how about the . . . what is this tipi shaking and all that, Uncle?"

My uncle(35) used to do that.

"Well now-days," he said, "we live with these people, White people, and we're learning. And then at times they're striking our mind into a White way of living. I think they're doing all they can to teach us for betterment, but they can't solve all our problems. This tipi shaking helps slow our troubles. If there's anything lost, or if you lost anybody, he'll tell you where it is. Like in the olden days a lot of them didn't come back home. If they walked along the walkovers on the ice at night, with no lights, and they walked into an air hole or something, and drowned, he'll find them. This guy will find them. And many a-times somebody'd get lost and he'll just send an animal messenger, and he'll tell where he is."

That's pretty sharp. I think we have some Indians for that yet. They'll answer any questions.

Maybe somebody's interfering with you. To find out you go up to the tipi-shaker, the Medicine Man. He's a doctor, Spiritual Doctor, and he'll put a big tipi up. And he shakes that when he goes in there. They have bells on there.

There is a Medicine Man that shakes the tipi at Mille Lacs. You can ask any question to that Medicine Man that shakes a tipi. But first you have to give him something for your question. When he shakes the tipi he'll answer you. He'll tell you when to come. Or maybe he'll answer you right there, if he's able to, and if his tipi is built up. You ask the tipi-shaker if there's any foul play against you, and by who. He'll tell you if there is.

He'll examine you. He'll examine your conscience. He'll examine your friends. He'll find out who's connected to you. He'll find out who's working besides you, who's working the same type of things you are. He'll find out what religion to be in. "Where does he work?" he'll ask you. Does he work(36) with the Indian?

If somebody works with the Indian, he might hire the Indian to use their power to work against you. But the Indian, most generally, doesn't want to do that. "I want to do what's right," they say. "I can't go ahead and work out your problems. I don't know the people involved. But I'll do something to answer questions." That's what the Medicine Men most generally say if you ask them to work against someone. "I don't want to get involved with anybody else's trouble. But you tell me your trouble, and I'll tell you what to do to avoid that. You can beat them by avoiding it."

Maybe you have to fast a couple days, three days. Maybe you'll have to live on water(37) for a few days. Maybe you have to use charcoal,(38) and talk to the Great by a campfire. Maybe you'll have to go off by yourself, and set there. When you're sitting there alone talking to the Great you'll almost see Him in your vision.

So you become in power(39) with the tipi-shaker. Then all you have to say is, "Leave me alone." Then the one working on you might leave you alone. You tell him, "I don't want your medicine. You have your own and I have mine. I have my life; you have your life. But let's be friends."

I like to hear the Spiritual Man too. One time I talked to the Spiritual at Mille Lacs. Boy he surprised me: "Well I'm going to shake the tipi tonight. I was just waiting for you guys to come from Ball Club. I know you were coming. I got a card from Mike Fairbanks here. It says that you were going to bring up Mr. Orson Weekly here. I'm glad you came. I thought you weren't coming before because it rained for awhile. With the crying-of-the-day I began to get leery. So I asked that it could clear up, and the sun was sinking. We have to wait for the sun to sink before I start in. But some of my boys(40) already have the fire built close to the tipi."

"And then you," he pointed at a woman and a man I went with, "you, you," and he pointed at me, "you come with us. Now you go put the sheeting over that tipi. It's all ready set up. Put the sheeting over the poles, and tie it the way you want to."

So we went there. We had ropes and we put the sheeting up there just as tight as we could. We took that rope and wrapped it around there, just as tight as we could, so he couldn't move it.

"He can't shake that," we thought.

He went in and sat down.

But it wouldn't move the first time.

This man talked to his spirit, but he didn't get an answer. He didn't get an answer! There was a big crowd standing around that spirit. That happened at Mille Lacs. That happened in . . . oh . . . that happened in the past. Years ago.(41)

And he said, "I can not get an answer for anybody."

"There's a party too close here. He said, "There's somebody here that doesn't believe in this. There's a party too close here that don't believe in this, that don't believe in nothin'. He believes in his life -- when he lives he's healthy, and he's got strength. But he's using that strength of his future spirit.(42) He don't believe in nothin'."

So he named one party. He named him: "Step back," and he called him by name.

"Will you move back?"

How the heck does he know that party's name? We saw it right there. They moved him back because he was pushing the spirit. The spirit didn't recognize him. And I don't know how far that pushing got. He had to back fifty feet anyhow. That's why you have to be careful in those places.

After that certain party moved back, the Spiritual Man tried it again and that thing began to shake. Heck, when he got in, he shook that tipi as if there was nothing to it. And he's an old man!

I've seen them do that.

That tipi moves just like a whip when the spirit comes down there. That tipi's made out of poles that big.(43) And it stops! When they're shaking their tipi and the tipi stops, the spirit has come down to do what they're called for. The Spiritual Doctor and the spirit talk together. The spirit which was called comes before him and his spirit and the spirit called talk to one another. He asks the questions and the spirit answers.

You hear sounds. Some crawler, like a mud turtle, comes in there.

"Do you want me?"

The Spiritual Man whispers, "No."

He'll name the certain one. He'll name the animal messenger spirit he wants. A snapping turtle is good.

He'll talk to that messenger, "What happened to this party that's sick and everything? Has anybody harmed him?"

It sounds familiar.

The messenger might be a crow, it might be a hawk.

You could hear them talk.

When the spirit and the Spiritual Doctor are talking together you can't hardly hear the spirit's voice, but the Spiritual can understand him clearly. You can hear them talking, but you don't understand them very well outside. The Spiritual can understand the spirit clear, because he's in the tipi with him and he has practiced understanding them. The spirits come to see him because he has invited them to come for a visit to answer a question. That's the only way I could put it out to you.

"He might-a got charmed(44) from the Indian."

He won't always name him.

Sometimes he'll get the charm off just by asking the Medicine Doctor to do it. The Medicine Doctor will pull it off and burn it. You know, they'll use tobacco and use their power to ask the Great to take that hook off.

Then the Spiritual Doctor answers the questions of the patient. If he doesn't know the answer himself, he'll learn from the spirit. He'll learn from an animal of some kind. An animal with a spirit will come -- like a bear, like a hawk, like a mud turtle, like a snapping turtle. A snapping turtle has quite a bit of power to carry messages to answer questions.

The Spiritual Doctor at Mille Lacs said to Orson Weekley, he said, "You take this medicine, Orson. I'd give you medicine here myself, but you're too far away from here. You're sixty miles away from me. So you better take medicine from over there where you're at.(45) You have some Indian medicine up there. You take tonic, one of our leading tonics."

He looked at me.

And I was fool enough to turn around. I was sitting besides the Medicine Man, the Spiritual. Of course, I used to know him when I was a little boy. I said, "What medicine should I give him? What medicine should he take?"

He looked at me with his eyes,(46) "You know that."

I knew, but I just liked to ask him.

"You know the medicine."

How does he know I practice on medicine? He must have heard about it. News goes far.

"You know that. You use that. You give him the tonic that you have now, that tonic that's given to you. I think you shouldn't drop it.(47) You should give it to the patient, to help your friend."

Most generally I do that to help my friends.

He was telling about Orson Weekly. "This party, this spirit that came to me, said he'll be all right. So just take the medicine that the Indian uses. If he believes in it, it'll work with him. He's going to be all right."

Orson Weekly felt good right now.

When the Spiritual finished I spoke up. Before I spoke I went and put tobacco on the fire. You have to put tobacco on the fire. I put one knee down before that tipi, and I said, "I thank you very much that you are putting your power to work for my friend. You'll receive a good news by this wonderful gift that you have. And I thank you for knowing who I am. I thank you for telling me that I know that medicine. And I think, I really do think, I know it. I have practiced with different forms of medicine, and I find a lot of times I got results. So I don't think the spirit was wrong. No. And I should thank you many times, many times, for your Great Spirit that comes before you. I thank you that my friend, our friend, is going to be all right."

Mike Fairbanks saw me talking to them.

"So I thank you and I know we'll get home fine and dandy. U^^ah. Migwitch.(48) Migwitch. Migwitch to all of you."

There was a whole crowd looking at my friend.

There was another woman who cried, "My boy got wounded three times in Vietnam. The last time we heard from him was thirty days ago. He don't write any more. Maybe he passed away. I'm going to ask jii-sah-kii about it." She was crying.

We asked her later, "Did he tell you?"

"Ya," he says, "excuse him. He is not good about messages."

"We've got a good man for that, G. B."

 

And there's another kind of Indian too that's a medicine Indian.(49) He'll take three or four bones, about four or five inches long, and he'll swallow them. He'll swallow those bones.(50) And when he's swallowing those bones he's thinking about you. And wherever the ailment is on you he knows as the bones are swallowed. It may be a foul-play.(51) It may be something that you ate that didn't agree with you. He'll get that out of you.

A bone swallowing doctor is na-nahn-da-wày-i-wày wI-nI-níi oo-k^-n^'n wI'n-daa-n^n, the bones he uses. o^'$-k^-n^n go-ga-wàyn-daa-n^n m^sh-ki-kíi wI-nI-níi. o$-k^'n, that's a bone. o$-k^-n^'n, that's bones, more than one. o$-k^-n^' o-g^-wayn-dàa-n^n is swallow. He swallows the bones to get the germ out of your system. He'll pull them all out. Maybe he'll swallow three or four of those bones, rabbit bones, or little bones, cut on both ends. He'll swallow rabbit bones or anything, you know, like little hawk bones. They're cut off, from animals, and they're polished and they're cured. They're nice and shiny. He swallowed bones, o-k^'-n^n, bones. The Medicine Doctor swallows bones. That's his power.

After he swallows the bones, for awhile he shakes those rattlers.(52) They had rattlers made of a wood. There's a handle to them. And they hit themselves on the back with them, and all of the meantime they move to certain positions over the patient.(53) Finally, they find exactly where the ailment is.

to top of page / A/Z index

Mide (Medicine Man) rattle and sticks.

Mide (Medicine Man) rattle and sticks.
Creator: Monroe P. Killy (1910-)
Photograph Collection, 1950
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.26 p4 Negative No. 35594

Sometimes they suck the ailment out with those bones, without swallowing them. The bone-sucking doctor, the one that uses the rabbit bones to suck, is nan-dah-wày-i-wày I-nI-níi m^-do-dóo I-nI-nay o-g^-ma-o-nI-ni; everything is in Indian. There's a name for him, a-non-dah-wày-i-way I-nI-nii m^sh-k^-kí wIn-nI-nii.

You know, as Medicine Men we have rabbit bones, turkey bones, and everything. We could put them there where the pain is and draw on them. The Medicine Man draws on them three times. Then he says, "You shall be well." Then he'll give you medicine, a liquid drink, of ironwood or something. And then, when he pulls the ailment out, he has some kind of a bark saucer or dish, a birch bark dish, and he'll shake those bones out in there. He pounds those small bones on that bark, just like you pound on the pipe, on a galvanized pipe or something, to see what's in there. He'll shake that bone and the ailment of you is in there. When he pounds those bones on the bark the germ falls out. Then they'll come out. And he'll spit some of them out.

Now!, I'm going to prove this to you. I would call myself as having a history of knowing what I'm saying from what I've seen and what I went through.

I was a patient one time. They swallowed bones over me. Then they took a sharp flint, one that was sharp as a razor on the point, and they tap tapped me. And they have a horn, and a shape of wood -- a small bowl -- and they draw the blood. With that blood they suck different things out. Like an ailment I had in my stomach here. When they did that to me I was sicker than hell from high blood pressure. After that, I felt fine. I have a mark here yet. You can still see that. I have a scar here yet. It's a long one.

I know about that also from the older class, and from others. There was a certain party one time that went to churches all over. She believed in the spirit, the god. She was going all over, but she was still getting sicker. So the chief of the Grand Medicine came along. "Unless you go to him," and he named the bone-swallowing doctor, "you will not feel better. He'll take your ailment away." She didn't care much about it, but she was sick and she went there to try it out. He doctored her. After that she felt good.

How could he do that?

That's power, boy. They can do it yet!

The jí-sa-kii can also cure people by sucking. You bet he can! The doctor, the Indian doctor, says, "You take tonic and herbs and everything that are out there. It'll make you feel good not having forms.(54) But when that forms stage is there you're working on it, and then you become cured by the internal or external applications.

That's a good method there. He's using different equipment, but that's the same method as the white doctors you have now. He just does the same as you have in English: Ask the Great Spirit to be in you, and be with you. Ask Him to give you the power and strength. Tell Him that you look forward to a betterment. And confess your sins. You have done wrong in the past, maybe, and you want to lead a better life. And when you do that, that goes right into you. That goes right into you. And the answer is there.

 


to top of page / A/Z index

Footnotes

1. Tipi-shaking doctors are also known as jessokid (variously spelled), and in the older literature they are sometimes also known referred to as "conjurors," "fortune-tellers," and "jugglers." For further information on tipi-shakers see the following: A. K. Black, 1934, "Shaking the Wigwam,"Beaver, 265:3:13,39; Hiram Calkins, 1855, "Indian Nomenclature of Northern Wisconsin, With A Sketch of the Manners and Customs of the Chippewas," Wisconsin State Historical Society Annual Reports and Collections, 1:119-126 (reprinted); Sister Bernard Coleman, 1937, "The Religion of the Ojibwa of Northern Minnesota," Primitive Man [now Anthropological Quarterly], 10:3-4:33-57; John M. Cooper, 1944, "The Shaking Tent Rite Among plains and Forest Algonquians," Primitive Man [now Anthropological Quarterly], 17:60-84; Rev. Eri H. Day, 1889, "Sketches of the Northwest," Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections, 14:205-256; Densmore, Frances, 1932, "An Explanation of a Trick Performed by Indian Jugglers," American Anthropologist, 34:2:310-314; A. Irving Hallowell, 1940, "Magic: The Role of Conjuring in Saulteaux Society," in Papers Presented Before the Monday Night Group, 1939-40, ed. by M. A. May (New Haven: Institute of Human Relations), pp. 94-115; A. Irving Hallowell, The Role of Conjuring in Saulteaux Society, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1942, reprinted New York: Octagon Books, 1971); N. L. Patterson, 1976, "Shaking Tents and Medicine Snakes: Traditional Elements in Contemporary Woodland Indian Art," Artmagazine (Canada), 7:28:52-57; Robert E. Ritzenthaler, Chippewa Preoccupation with Health, Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, Bulletin (1953), 19:4:198-209; Christopher Vecsey, Traditional Ojibwa Religion and Its Historical Changes, (Philadelphia, PA: The American Philosophical Society, 1983), pp. 103-106; Gerald Visenor, The People Named the Chippewa: Narrative Histories. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 140-141.

2. Densmore, Chippewa Customs, pp. 44-45 notes that while a ji-sa-kii ("djasakid") might be Mide, or a member of the Midewiwin society, they rarely were. She also notes that "he who administered herb and other remedies was almost without exception a member of the Midewiwin, as the knowledge of herbs constituted one of the secrets of that organization." She continues, "It was the chief purpose of the djasakid [ji-sa-kii] to work upon the mind of the sick person, and by that means to produce a recovery. To that end he startled, amazed, terrified and stimulated the sick person, and it is not impossible that in some cases the excited nervous condition produced an apparent or even a real improvement in his condition. The members of the Mide, in their treatment of the sick, used a mental influence in addition to their material remedies, but used it intelligently. This mental influence was exerted chiefly through the words of the songs that they sang when administering their medicines. It was also the belief that initiation into the Midewiwin would cure a man of bodily illness, this belief being so strong that persons too ill to be carried to the Mide lodge were initiated by proxy, a relative or friend representing them in the initiation ceremony. . . . a djasakid, before beginning a treatment, narrated his personal dream as a guaranty of his success. A Mide, on the other hand, placed the emphasis on the power of the Midewiwin transmitted through many generations of faithful adherents."

3. Or what.

4. See Ch. 30, "Mi-de-wi-win," and Ch. 34, "Messengers and Unusual Events."

5. The jessokid shakes a small conical tipi-like structure. See Figures 8 and 9 Robert E. Ritzenthaler, Chippewa Preoccupation with Health, Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, Bulletin (1953), 19:4, pp. 199 and 201.

6. There is here, to one who believes in the system, also a very clear message that the medicine doctor will also use his power against you, if you have stolen something and have thus violated the norms of the community. Traditionally, that would be a very strong negative sanction. The severity of the penalty would be at least proportional to the severity of the crime. Although the threat of this happening was frequent, the actual use of power against someone in this manner was not common. Nevertheless the threat of it being possible was a very strong force among traditional peoples. James H. Howard, writing on the plains-Ojibwa or Bungi, notes, "Members of the MidéwIwÌn and Wabáno societies were particularly feared for their magical prowess, and fear of this power was often an active deterrent to theft an violence" (The Plains-Ojibwa or Bungi, Anthropological Papers Number 1, Vermillion, South Dakota: South Dakota Museum, University of South Dakota, 1965, p. 65).

7. See Ch. 28, "Power."

8. Dreams are an important element in Anishinabe life. Cf. A. Irving Hallowell, "The Role of Dreams in Ojibwa Culture," in Gustav E. Von Grunebaum and Roger Caillois (Eds.) The Dream and Human Societies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), pp. 267-292. See also Ch. 27, "Dreams and Visions," and Ch. 28, "Power."

9. See Ch. 30, "Mi-day-wi-win."

10. Cf. crow and fish dream.

11. Other bands of Anishinabe as well as other American Indian groups.

12. Ask you questions and examine you about your beliefs and attitudes.

13. Send messages. See also Ch. 34, "Messengers and Unusual Events."

14. Winibozho had the power to turn into an animal and back again. For further information on Winibozho see Ch. 20, "Winibozho and the Creation of the Current World."

15. You have to have a lot of power and use the power regularly, either in a good way or in a bad way. To be able to change into an animal and back requires control of great power and for this it does not matter if the power use is positive or negative. Of course, if you do not use power regularly you can not have enough power to do this transformation.

16. They can give or transfer their power while they are living or after they are dead, or both -- but it is usually done before death, or on the deathbed. See pp. xxx ff, Ch. 31, "An Indian Curing Ceremony," for a discussion of transfer of power. When you get a name from a namesake you also get part of the power and part of the soul of the individual you are named after. See Chs. 28, "Power", and xxxchange 36, "Names and Namesakes."

17. See Chs. 30, "Mi-de-wi-win", 31, "An Indian Curing Ceremony," and 33, "Medicine Men/Medicine Women." A "beginner in Grand medicine" is the initiate.

18. That is, an herbalist, or one that works primarily, but not exclusively, with plant medicines, and plant medicine mixtures and teas.

19. That is any jibik, or bad magic.

20. Who has the most power, and power that is greater than any of the others.

21. His ancestors have taught him that.

22. Cf. Ch. 2, "Bena Childhood."

23. Again, it is important to distinguish things one sees from things one has only heard about.

24. When his doctoring is successful.

25. Jess-a-kii are also predictors or fortune tellers.

26. That is, there are different things to do at different times of the year, according to the season.

27. They hand little pairs of shoes or other valuable things out, in a tree or someplace like that, as a signal to the Great Spirit that this is a settlement with believers in it. Cf. pp. xxx ff. Robert E. Ritzenthaler discusses this as the "Offering Tree (bagi'jigana'tig) Chippewa Preoccupation with Health, Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, Bulletin (1953), 19:4, pp. 214-216. Ritzenthaler notes that this is a community attempt to ward off "impending sickness." Fig 12. shows an "Offering Tree." The ones that I have seen have been modest by comparison, usually containing a single item of clothing, and occasionally being only a single pair of baby moccasins.

28. Passed on culturally, not genetically.

29. The elder or senior Grand Medicine people.

30. You have to live according to the accepted values of the community.

31. Cf., Ch. 31, "An Indian Curing Ceremony."

32. That is, he is not doing anything bad with his power. The medicine doctor-herbalist is still only working for the good of the community.

33. The power to heal is given to the medicine as part of the natural scheme of things. Anyone with the proper knowledge of nature and of medicine can pick and use the medicine, and it works. You do not have to be a special person like jessokid or Mide. "Medicine Men" can be male or female. See Ch. 13, "Indian Medicine."

34. See Ch. 32, "Medicine Men / Medicine Women."

35. Another uncle, from Mille Lacs.

36. "Working with Indians" means believing in the Indian way and, in this case, enlisting another Medicine Doctor to use their power against you.

37. Drink only water.

38. Putting lines of charcoal across your face is a sign of respect and of mourning. See Ch. xxx.

39. Empowered.

40. Some of the men of the village, or some friends or relatives who are there for the ceremony.

41. One way to deny that ceremonies like this still happened is to make the point that these thing happened a long time ago. This actually happened about a year before the taping. See also endnote, Ch. 31, "An Indian Curing Ceremony," and footnote 48, Ch. 30, "Mi-day-wi-win."

42. He is healthy, but he gets his health from using up strength that he would have from his spirit in the future rather by generating strength (and therefore health) by believing in something in the present. Not believing in something is considered an antisocial and despicable trait. One doesn't have to believe in Indian beliefs, but they should believe in something. The statement here implies that the person, who now appears healthy, will become seriously sick, and perhaps even die, before they would if they believed in something. It's sort of like using up in the present battery power you will need for survival in the future. Also, because most of those in attendance look healthy, with the obvious exception of the one(s) seeking help, it is not clear to spectators/participants who the agnostic might be. When the Spiritual Man names the person that highlights his powers.

43. A couple of inches thick.

44. Hexed, worked on with jibik.

45. Using medicine grown nearby to where you live is more effective since you both "belong" in the same area, i.e., you are both "natural" to a common place, both part of the "natural" order of the same realm.

46. He stared at him and talked to him with his eyes, then spoke.

47. You shouldn't give up practicing as a Medicine Man, which some of the other Medicine Men had done.

48. "Thank you."

49. Robert E. Ritzenthaler, in Chippewa Preoccupation with Health, Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, Bulletin (1953), 19:4, pp. 198-209 talks about what he calls three "shamanistic techniques of curing": The Conjuror [jessokid], The Sucking Doctor, and The Wabeno (Eastern men). "According to Hoffman [1892] (p. 156-7) a Wabeno also receives his power through his fasting experience and 'evil manidos favor his desires, and apart from his general routine of furnishing 'hunting medicine', 'love powders' etc., he pretends also to practice medical magic.' He too was an individual practitioner, and his dramatic forte was pyrotechnical legerdemain such as the handling of red-hot stones or burning brands with the bare hands without injury. This took place during all-night ceremonies in conjunction with singing, dancing, and feasting. Among several of Schoolcraft's (Vol. 1, p. 356) [1860] informants it was believed to be of modern origin and a degraded form of the Midewiwin. Information concerning the Wabeno, however, is both scanty and nebulous, and even Hoffman (p. 156) . . . states, 'Their profession is not thoroughly understood, and their number is so extremely limited that but little information respecting them can be obtained.'" Ritzenthaller could find no trace of the Wabaeno among "the modern Wisconsin Chippewa." Likewise, I never heard that term used or the topic discussed on the Leech Lake, Fond du Lac, or White Earth Reservations in Minnesota. A. Irving Hallowell reports on the existence of the wábano for the "Northern Ojibwa" [1963. "Ojibwa World View and Disease," in Man's Image in Medicine and Anthropology. Ed. by Iago Galdston. (New York Academy of Medicine, Institute of Social and Historical Medicine, Monograph 4. New York: International Universities Press, pp. 258-315.)

A. Irving Hallowell, in "Fear and Anxiety as Cultural and Individual Variables in a Primitive Society." Journal of Social Psychology, 9:25-47. (Reprinted in A. I. Hallowell, 1955a, pp. 250-265.) discusses the "Wabano leader" J. D., suggesting ". . . I suspect that his conjuring, doctoring, and Wabano leadership are intimately bound up with his neurosis," and notes that J.D. has ". . . incorporated in his Wabanówïwin certain features of the defunct Mïdéwïwin . . . . He has even gone so far as to coin a new term, wabano mïdéwïwin," for his ceremony." (1955a. pp. 262-264.)

James H. Howard (The Plains-Ojibwa or Bungi, (Anthropological Papers Number 1, Vermillion, South Dakota: South Dakota Museum, University of South Dakota, 1965, p. 127) reports "This ceremony has not been performed in the Turtle Mountain region for many years. It was performed by an organized religious group similar to the MidéwIwÌn, and seems to have constituted a rival organization. . . . Its principal meeting took place in the spring, immediately following the MidéwIwÌn ceremony. . . . Members of the Wabáno, like members of the MidéwIwÌn, were renowned for their shamanistic "power" and their knowledge of medicines. According to my informants [they] did not use this power for the good of the tribe, however, but merely for personal aggrandizement. Even in Tanner's [1830] time the group had a bad reputation. Many of the author's informants, both Míde and otherwise, called it a 'fake'. Like the MidéwIwÌn and Sáwanògan it is part of the older "woodland' ceremonial complex brought to the Prairies by the ancestral Bungí."

50. For the equipment used by a bone-swallowing doctor see Figure 10, p. 205, Robert E. Ritzenthaller Chippewa Preoccupation with Health, Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, Bulletin (1953), 19:4:175-257, and p. 46 and Plate 21 (following page 50) in Francis Densmore, Chippewa Customs, (Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 86), pp. 1-204. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. (Reprinted, Minneapolis: Ross and Haines, 1970; St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1979; and elsewhere.)

51. Jibik or bad magic.

52. Rattles.

53. The doctor bends over and sucks the illness out of the patient. See Plate XVIII, following page 279 in Walter James Hoffman, "The Midewiwin; or 'Grand Medicine Society' of the Ojibwa," in Bulletin of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Seventh Annual Report, 1885-1886, (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891), pp. 143-300, and Figure 11 in Robert E. Ritzenthaler, Chippewa Preoccupation with Health, Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, Bulletin (1953), 19:4, p. 208.

54. Germs.

to top of page / A/Z index   to top of page / A-Z index

This site is under construction. Comments are welcome!
Envelope: E-mail E-mail comments to troufs@d.umn.edu

The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
Copyright: © 1997 - 2014 Timothy G. Roufs

The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota.

Page URL:http://www.d.umn.edu /cla/faculty/troufs/Buffalo/PB32.html
Last Modified: Friday, 07-Feb-2014 08:02:52 CST ) -->


Skype: troufs using "chat" function (right-mouse click)
(free software is available at <http://skype.com/download//>)

FAX: (218) 726-6386

Department of Sociology-Anthropology
College of Liberal Arts
215 Cina Hall
University of Minnesota Duluth (maps)
Duluth, MN 55812 - 2496 (maps)

Duluth Weather

Gitchee-Gumee Live

to top of page / A/Z index   to top of page / A-Z index

View Stats

© 2014 University of Minnesota Duluth
The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
Last modified on 02/07/14 08:02 AM
University of Minnesota Campuses
Crookston | Duluth | Morris
Rochester | Twin Cities | Other Locations