By Colin Graf
AAMJIWNAANG FIRST NATION—With generations of First Nations damaged by the trauma of residential schools, Traditional Healer Wendy Hill sees her work as a special way to help First Nation people to recover and rebuild their lives, drawing on their own history and culture.
While people may come to her with physical problems, her treatments begin much deeper, by looking at the person’s spirit. Problems usually begin for damaged people there, and then progress to their psychological selves.
“Physical problems are the last stage of hurt to the spirit,” she tells Anishinabek News, during a two-day visit to Aamjiwnaang First Nation. “They may be carrying a load of guilt, hurt, or shame,” she says.
Spirit is what Hill works with the most, because it is usually the most neglected part of a person, she says. “The spirit wants truth, understanding, and compassion,” and finding that is what brings healing, she explains.
Her treatments usually start with an offering of tobacco, the “leader” of all medicines. After that, Hill tries to get in touch with the client’s spirit guide, “someone who has lived before.” The spirit guide often speaks to her with a message for the person. “Words just come to me,” she explains. Sometimes the spirits give their name, but even if they don’t, they often explain the reasons for events that have happened in the client’s life, she says.
During her years in healing, she has treated “just about everything,” from back pain and vertigo, to migraine headaches and even tumours. “People seem to come to me a lot of the time when doctors have given up.”
And they are not always believers in the kind of work she does. Many are skeptical. “I just tell them any healing comes from the Creator, not from me,” she says.
Hill, from Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in southern Ontario, has worked with people of many different races and faith. She used to work at an Anishnawbe Health Centre in Toronto, and had parents of Asian ancestry who brought their two-year-old son to her who was having up to 36 seizures each day.
The child was rather scared of her at first, but when he slept she laid hands to him and prayed. After that session, the child had only five more seizures in the next month.
When the parents brought him back two years later, the boy remembered her and told her during that first treatment he dreamt of eagles. Hill treated him again and he did not experience anymore seizures for the next year.
Her path to spiritual knowledge and understanding of her own healing abilities started with a near-death experience when she was 20. Her appendix burst, the doctors had to perform surgery to remove part of her stomach and intestine, and she was in a coma for 4 days. During that time, she found herself in a “very beautiful” place and believes she was given the choice to stay on the earth or leave. The voice that gave her the choice would not say what would happen to her baby daughter if she chose to leave, so she chose to return. However, the voice told her “if you stay, you will have to help a lot of people,” and that she would have to help mend people’s spirit.
When she recovered from illness, Hill continued having dreams that helped her develop a relationship with the Spirit World. “I could feel those grandmothers and grandfathers,” she remembers. Eagles spoke to her in one dream about her hands and how to use them to help people.
A few weeks after sharing her dreams with one of her sisters, the same sister fell ill with a severe migraine and ended up in hospital. On the third day, crying, with blinds drawn to keep the sunlight from making her headache worse, Hill’s sister grabbed her by the wrists. She suddenly felt a vibration going around the sister’s head, and a feeling of suction that went out through her own hands. The feeling left in under a minute and her sister shouted out “It’s gone.” Her headache had cleared.
Later, her sister brought others with headache problems to Hill for healing. She became an assistant to Healers at First Nation health centers in the Brantford and Hamilton areas. One of them encouraged her to try a greater range of healing on her own.
In recent years, Hill has taken her tools, which include: a pipe, Eagle Feather, medicine pouches, rattle, along with her healing hands to communities across North America, from California to the fly-in communities of northern Ontario and Quebec along Hudson Bay.
She works more with her hands than with herbal medicines, and does not consider herself a medicine woman. She performs many traditional rites, such as pipe, sweat lodge, full moon, and water ceremonies.
Hill, whose ancestry includes 4 of the Iroquois Nations (Cayuga, Mohawk, Onondaga, and Oneida) along with Chippewa, is also the author of a book, Understanding Life: What My Ancestors Taught me Through my Dreams, available from Red Lead Books or Amazon.
The book is about the spiritual knowledge she considers to have been given to her, and she is now working on a second book, Peaceful Relationships, about the root causes of violence and links to mental illness. People can contact her through Facebook.