By Rick Garrick
FORT WILLIAM FN – Traditional healers once travelled for years to trade medicines and learn from one another on the slopes of Mount McKay, a Fort William First Nation landmark.
“They used to canoe all the way from Quebec, right across Hudson Bay and down the Albany,” said Pic River’s Raphael Moses during a Sept. 21 medicine walk with 25 studetns from Lakehead University. “From Duluth, Minnesota, surrounding communities used to meet up on Mount McKay in the early 1800s to 1900s. A return trip would take up to two years.”
Moses says it is now time for traditional healers to share their knowledge with younger generations.
“It is time for the Elders to start coming out and exposing this knowledge that they carry because within the last 10 to 15 years we lost a lot of knowledge,” Moses says. “When the Elders passed away, they never left anything behind.”
Moses plans to share his knowledge by publishing a book, “Holistic Adventures”, about traditional healing, noting that he first began learning about traditional healing 30 years ago.
“I was taught by seven different Elders,” Moses says. “It is time for the people to get back to Mother Earth.”
Moses shared his knowledge about the healing properties of a number of common trees and plants, including red willow, poplar, birch, balsam, spruce, mountain ash, raspberry, strawberry, horsetail and dandelion, with the Lakehead students during the four-hour medicine walk.
“There is so much right around us and we don’t have enough time to teach every (medicine),” Moses says. “But I’m grateful today that a whole group of university students did come out.”
He says people should consult a knowledgeable person before using any plants from the wild, adding that traditional medicines can be found everywhere, and that various dandelion parts are used for treating arthritis, rheumatism, warts and liver problems.
“Whenever you are feeling ill, you can stop … and draw an imaginary line 10 feet in diameter around you,” Moses says. “Inside that 10-foot diameter is a medicine for your illness. People don’t know what they walk on every day.”
The medicine walk was organized by Fort William’s Helen Pelletier, director of Lakehead University’s Aboriginal Awareness Centre.