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Of Medicine Men/Women and Shamans


There is much debate in regard to the term Shamanism and how it relates to North, Central and South American indigenous Indian cultures. For this reason I have decided to create this page to specifically address this. This page has the potential to evolve into a further study of  these cultures but for now the focus will remain in the realm of “spiritual practices”. The term spiritual practices in itself is controversial as my understanding is that most Indians do not consider this “spiritual” but simply a way of life that encompasses all they do. Occasionally I may use the term "man" or "men" as pertains to humans not gender. Also take note in American Indian culture "medicine" is a very important word and is not only the use of herbs and such but can encompass many things including ritual, dance, objects and the importance of dreaming. The healing process has always contained a knowledge that the body and spirit must work together to heal and be whole.  (something modern western medicine seems to just now be realizing) The Navajo call it "walking in beauty". Shamans too know this. One last point on words here. 

There has been an ongoing controversy an the terms Indian or Native American Some say it is worked out but I choose to use “American Indian” in a general sense while discussing Indians of the Americas, especially in regard to the term “Native American”. Lakota activist  Russell Means (he used the traditional term "Lakota" rather than the term "Sioux", which he viewed as a derogatory white word) who has said “I abhor the term Native American”. He speaks of this in his speech given in July 1980. (Wiki List of Indian activists odd Means is not in this list) and  more on the term Native American Here  So let me begin. At times this may veer away from Native American thought and meander off into shaman areas of other cultures or even "magick" or "magic" (more on the difference in those terms also on the ShamanismPaganism and Magick sections on the site, see vertical navigation) when the flow goes that way.

I was once asked what I thought the difference between Shamanism and Medicine Men was. So I will begin with what I was saying in response to travel down the road of this inquiry of shamans and medicine men. In brief, I think it is much a problem with language, misconceptions and an overall lack of knowledge of history, and mythological/spiritual cosmology. One basic difference I see is that in “shamanic” tradition it seems that the idea of “religious ecstasy” is a central theme of shamans, but not central to the practices of Indian “medicine men”. The words “shaman” and “medicine man” are both European terms imported and spread across the world in the exploration/exploitation during the advance of European empire. Neither are what the indigenous people call themselves.

Before the Europeans came to “the new world” they extended the concept of shaman to include “witchcraft” which is also a terrible comparison in many ways. When the slave trade was implemented in this part of the world other spiritual practices such as African “Vodun” came with them which itself was morphed into Haitian voodoo and in turn morphed into what most Americans think of, which are Louisiana voodoo and Santeria, which are termed “syncretic religions” as they intermix theologies and practices of other traditions. (including Christianity) Current European occultism is also a syncretic religion in my view as it borrows much from the Jewish Kabbalah which in turn absorbed Egyptian mythologies into the teaching of the Hebrew Pentateuch, which became the Torah, which became the Bible. Links and more links dating back to the first Neanderthal who looked up into the sky and asked, “What's this all about?”

While I understand the sensitivity many Indians have to the term shaman when speaking of medicine men, I think they are a bit too sensitive. But that comes from my own spiritual practice, Chaos Magic which in brief is a magickal spirituality with little or no set-in-stone ritual, dogma, deities and borrows from all traditions and science in it's working. So Chaos Magick is an excellent example of a syncretic “religion” I would say. (Much is devoted in this site to this here) There is a group of Indians who have a group called “New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans (NAFPS) who work exposing people who they feel borrow Native American "spirituality" and misrepresent themselves and the spiritual practice of native people and has lists of names and their websites. I am a member of this group for informational use to understand their point of view and have found people I know personally on their list. I never post in their forum but I visit and check it out on occasion. Also see Plastic Shaman. (Cherokee Nation snippet)
Apsaalooke Medicine Men (Crow Nation)
Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake (Sitting Bull)
Wallace Black Elk a traditional Lakota Elder and spiritual interpreter, was a Channupa (sacred pipe) bearing descendent of the legendary Hehaka Sapa (Black Elk)


Of Women Shamans


Within the Mapuche ("Earth People") of South America shamans are called Machi and are more often women than men. Also see “Shamans of the Foye Tree: Gender, Power, and Healing among Chilean Mapuche” by By Ana Mariella Bacigalupo (2007) PDF FILES BY CHAPTER HERE at Project Muse which is the first study to follow shamans' gender identities and performance in a variety of ritual, social, sexual, and political contexts. A Chukchee proverb declares, “Woman is by nature a shaman.” (sic) "In fact, women have been at the forefront of this field worldwide, and in some cultures, they predominate." (sic) The issue of gender of shamans seems to be significant. This is explored more by Max Dashú in his work “Women's Power” MORE HERE (a truncated synopsis)

Within the Karuk people of California "There are two classes of shamans—the root doctors and the barking doctors… It is the province of the barking-doctor to diagnose the case, which she (most doctors are women) does by squatting down… before the patient, and barking at him… for hours together. After her comes the root-doctor, and with numerous potions, poultices, etc., seeks to medicate the part where the other has discovered the ailment resides. "The first of September brings a red-letter day in the Karok ephemeris, the great Dance of Propitiation, (Side note and a few examples of spiritual dance #1#2#3 and Dances of Universal Peace) at which all the tribe are present, together with the deputations from the Yurok, the Hupa, and others. They call it sif-san-di pik-i-a-vish…which signifies, literally, "working the earth". The object of it is to propitiate the spirits of the earth and the forest, in order to prevent disastrous landslides, forest fires, earthquakes, drought, and other calamities." (sic)
Pictured here is Lucy Thompson (1856–1932) is an author known for her 1916 To the American Indian: Reminiscences of a Yurok Woman. The Yurok (California's largest tribe) Shamans were believed to have the power to cure disease; this power being given only to women. Spiritual aid was invoked through ritual, medicine songs, which often had a "sobbing" vocal quality, and spoken formulas. The Brush dance is a special ceremony held to heal a sick child. Conducted by the shaman, the family of the sick person hosted the dance which often took place in their home, the roof of the plank house being removed. Members of the tribe, and other local tribes would participate, or just spectate, as the dance continued all night.
(interesting side note) > More on the Yuroc at the Four Directions


The priestess of Ukok (Warrior priestess-shaman) Inside the Maiden’s tomb chamber was her coffin, which was made of a solid larch wood tree trunk decorated with leather appliqués depicting deer figures.The Ice Maiden’s preserved skin has the mark of an animal-style deer tattoo on one of her shoulders, and another on her wrist and thumb. She was buried in a yellow silk tussah blouse, a crimson-and-white striped wool skirt with a tassel belt, thigh-high white felt leggings, with a marten fur, a small mirror made from polished metal and wood with carved deer figures, and a headdress that stood nearly three feet tall. The size of the headdress necessitated a coffin that was eight feet long. The headdress had a wooden substructure with a molded felt covering and eight carved feline figures covered in gold. There were remains of coriander seeds in a stone dish that may have been provided for the Maiden’s medicinal use. #1 ~ #2

Mitakuye Oyasin
“When we say Mitakuye Oyasin, ‘All Our Relations,’ many people don't understand the meaning of those words. The phrase Mitakuye Oyasin has a bigger meaning than just our blood relatives. Yes, it’s true; we are all one human race. But the word Mitakuye means relations and Oyasin means more than family, more than a Nation, more than all of humankind, everything that has a spirit. The Earth herself, Maka Unci, is our relation, and so is the sky, Grandfather Sky, and so is the Buffalo and so are each of the two-leggeds, the four-leggeds, those that swim, those that fly, the root nation and the crawling beings who share the world with us. Mitakuye Oyasin refers to the interconnectedness of all beings and all things. We are all interconnected. We are all One.”
Chief Arvol Looking Horse

Spiritual Unity of Tribes - Gathering of Eagles

2016 Gathering - June 22-June 25, 2016

Indian Appropriations Act of 1876
From 1778 to 1871 the United States government entered into more than 500 treaties with the Native American tribes; every one of these treaties has since been violated in some way or outright "broken" by the US government. However, violations by one party do not nullify the treaties; the treaties are still in effect, and Native Americans and First Nations peoples are still fighting for their treaty rights in federal courts and at the United Nations.
List of US and Native American Treaties 1778–1904 at bottom of page
>> HERE <<
Effects of Environmental Racism on Native American Nations

AIM of Colorado Blog

Crazy Horse Memorial Org
Crazy Horse Memorial Wikipedia
"My lands are where my dead lie buried." - Crazy Horse
YouTube Video

Native American Index At Crystalinks
Sweating as a spiritual practice
Sweat Lodge
Sweat Lodge Entry At Crystalinks Mentions Other Non-Indian Examples

Google for More Native American Racism

AIM Wikipedia Entry

"Every human being is a raindrop.
And when enough of the raindrops become clear and coherent
they then become the power of the storm."
 John Trudell ~ MORE
Remembering the Life and Legacy of John Trudell

founder of the National Council of American Indians
Book of American Indian stories by Zitkala-Sa
Old Indian Legends by Zitkala-Sa

Wakan Tanka

Native American Shamanism And The Medicine Man

Native American Mythology @ Encyclopedia Mythica

A Lakota Pantheon

Native Languages
White Buffalo Calf Woman Crystalinks ~ Wikipedia Entry
White Buffalo Calf Woman
Brought the Lakota 7 gifts.
The sweat lodge, the naming ceremony, the healing ceremony, the adoption ceremony,
the marriage ceremony, the vision quest and the sundance ceremony.

Native Solidarity

Betsy Thunder Medicine Woman
Crystalinks Native Americans Index
Library of Aboriginal American literature (1882) TEXT
an Iroquois name for a spiritual power inherent in people and their environment
deemed a motive force behind miracles, soothsaying, divination, prophecy, blessing, cursing, prayer, worship, and superstitions.
The Mysterious Ancient Giants Who Ruled America
Crow Indian Mythology
Choctaw Mythology

Father Sky ~ Mother Earth
Tree Spirits

Circles Native Symbolism

The Medicine Wheel, sometimes known as the Sacred Hoop
Native American Medicine Wheel Wikipedia
Native American Symbols from Paths2Peacepipes

Native American Legends

Calumet ~ Chanunpa
Native American Pipe Ceremony

Las Curanderas: Traditional Healers in New Mexico
Native American Shamanism And The Medicine Man
Las curanderas

Homeland Security Fighting Terrorism Since 1492 ~ #2
American Indian Movement
Native American activists occupy of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building
in Washington, D.C., in 1972. Photo
More Images
6 minute 24 seconds film
Vine Deloria Jr.
American Indian Creationism
The National Congress of American Indians
Society of American Indians

Original Art Work and Writings by Wyandotte Artist Marcine Quenzer (my friend)
YouTube Interview

Meet Tara Houska, Bernie Sanders’s New Native American Advisor

The Navajo Pollen Path

Geronimo, a religious and military leader of the Chiricahua Apache, who tenaciously fought against Mexico and the United States' expansion into Apache tribal lands for several decades during the Apache Wars, was initially known by his Apache name: "Goyahkla" (One Who Yawns). "Later he was called Geronimo (Spanish for Jerome), most likely because of the way he fought in battle against Mexican soldiers who frantically called upon St. Jerome for help.

Luther Standing Bear
Charles Eastman
Black Elk
Gertrude Bonnin (Zitkala-Sa)
John Fire Lame Deer

Begin Study on Spiritual Dancing:
Burmese dance

Nayenezgani Navajo "slayer of alien gods" ~ Images taken in 1904 by Edward S. Curtis

Native American Indian Legends and Folklore
Native American Monsters of Myth and Legend

Indigenous Peoples
Native Americans in the United States Wikipedia
List of Federally Recognized Tribes
Indigenous Peoples of the Americas Wikipedia
List of Unrecognized Tribes in the United States
Soul Wound The Legacy of Native American Schools By Andrea Smith
Our Fires Still Burn: The Native American Experience One of the best Indian Documentaries I have seen
Americans for Indian Opportunity
Choctaw Mythology
Southeastern Ceremonial Complex
LaDonna Harris
Solomon Bibo
was a Jewish trader in the American Old West who became governor of Acoma Pueblo,
equivalent of the tribal chief. He was the only non-Indian ever to serve as a governor of an Indian Pueblo.
Significance of the Eagle, Feather, Native Headdress
Aboriginal and Tribal Nation News Facebook
Many concepts of spirituality behind the Medicine Wheel as that is very specific, sacred and rather personable to Native American Nations, Tribes, Clans, Bands, Families and most important Individuals.
Always know that the symbolism varies greatly from Nation to Nation.
Different tribes interpret the Medicine Wheel differently. Each of the Four Directions (East, South, West, and North) is typically represented by a distinctive color, such as black, red, yellow, and white, which for some stands for the human races. The Directions can also represent:
Stages of life: birth, youth, adult (or elder), death
Seasons of the year: spring, summer, winter, fall
Aspects of life: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical
Elements of nature: fire (or sun), air, water, and earth
Animals: Eagle, Bear, Wolf, Buffalo and many others
Ceremonial plants: tobacco, sweet grass, sage, cedar
Native American Use Of Fire
January 23rd, 1870 – In Montana, U.S. cavalrymen kill 173 Native Americans, mostly women and children, in what becomes known as the Marias Massacre. Following public outrage, the long-term result was a shift in the policy of the Federal Government toward a "peace policy" as advocated by President Ulysses S. Grant.
Sun Dance and Ghost Dance
A few American Indian Mystics
Black Elk ~ Sitting BullSmohallaWovoka ~ Tenskwatawa
Indian Prophets 1800-1850
Native American Prophecies - Crystalinks
Religious Figures of the Indigenous Peoples of North America Wikipedia
Native American Religion Wikipedia
Smohalla and The Dreamers

Indian Shaker Church
Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins
first Native American woman known to secure a copyright and to publish in the English language.
Caroline Weldon (Sitting Bull's Private Secretary)

Image Bureau of Indian Affairs Wikipedia Entry
Notable Native Americans on the Frontier © Kathy Weiser
Some General Observations on Native American Mysticism


Dancing Toe Eagle Spirit Society
Mother Earth Church of the Grand Caney
Old Mysterious Photos of Shamans, Mystics and Medicine Men
Native American Medicine Men and Women and Shamans A Pinterest Page
Standing Holy, daughter of Sitting Bull Image 1 ~ Library of Congress Standing Holy Photo Here
Luzclara a Chilean Medicine Woman (Note NAFPS Forum has a page on her)

Center for Shamanic Education and Exchange on Shamanism ~ Main Page
William S. Lyon has spent his career in the study of North American Indian shamanism >> Encyclopedia of Native American Healing

Seven Circles' Sundance >> Seven Circles Foundation
American Indian Institute
Elder Wisdom Circle
Chief Oren Lyons

Top 10 Things to Say When You Meet a White Person

Women played a very important role in the life of the Native American.
American Indian Tribal Directory
Canton Asylum for Insane Indians
Mary Louie, a medicine woman of the Snoqualmie tribe
Native American Indian Legends and Folklore
>> download this image http://www.willsworld.org/pics-twospirits/SC-096-QuechanWoman.jpg
Who are the Two Spirits?
Smithsonian Native Americans Studies PDFs
15 Famous
~ Lakota People Law Project http://lakotalaw.org/ (image) http://lakotalaw.org/images/lplp-logo_50_f5f4e3.png
~ Save the Conflence
LEARN NC's Lesson Plans Hub (Indian Research Here)

The North American Indian by Edward S. Curtis Text/Images PDF
Medicine and Medicine Men from Edward Curtis
Stresses Produce New Apache Religious Movements


Mystery of Cahokia
The Spiro pipes
Red Horn

Where do you come from
Why do you attack Earth
When did you lose your mind

You tried to beat us
into submission
It hurt
It made
Our hearts

You are blind
to what is real
Your prisons of
drugs, ego, sex
and material
Keep you
from knowing
what it is
to feel

When Mother Earth
is abused
the people suffer
Our relatives the plants
the animals, the winds
all victims of your fury

Your destructive fury
is unnatural madness
Your literacy is
Your keeper
Your mechanical
The chaos of
Your masters

You will not endure
Your illusions show
No respect
For Life
We resist you
We will not follow
You in your sickness

We are the generations
of generations
We will remember
Our Mother, Our Relations
We will survive

John Trudell

by Stewart Culin
Amazon Book Purchase
More Stewart Culin at the Internet Archive

Most Consider The Arrival Of Christopher Columbus
As The Beginning Of The End For The Indians Of The Americas

Christopher Columbus first voyage landing 3 August 1492,
arrive in Haiti 4 December 1492.
Second voyage left Spain 24 September 1493.
Third voyage left 30 May 1498.
Fourth voyage left 11 May 1502.
Died May 20th 1506 in Spain
History of Haiti

Hernán Cortés entered Mexico in 1519 and conquered the Aztec

Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro reached the
Inca Empire in 1526 and finally conquered them August 1533

Hernándo Cortés, landed on the Gulf Coast in the spring of 1519.

Hernando de Soto
Conquest of Peru started In 1530, lands in Florida May 1539 then moved west across America killing Indians.
He died May 21, 1542 in what is now  McArthur, Arkansas.

Inuit and Englishman: Frobisher History
South Carolina slave trade began with the Sewee Nation The slave trade was the basis of it's economy.
Later African slaves were imported to work. As late as 1730 1/4 of the slaves being bought and sold were still Indians.
French and Indian War
Jeffrey Amherst is reported to be the one who purposely gave smallpox in blankets during Pontiac's Rebellion.
"Could it not be contrived to send the small pox among the disaffected tribes of Indians?
We must on this occasion use every stratagem in our power to reduce them."
Biological Warfare
The Real Story of Thanksgiving by Susan Bates
Pequot People
King Philip's (Metacomet) >> War
Philip's head was proudly carried through the streets of Plymouth
then mounted on a pike at the entrance to Fort Plymouth,
where it remained for more than two decades.
His body was cut into quarters and hung in trees.
The Pilgrims attacked the Indians After Thanksgiving for violating their
Blue Laws
47th National Day of Mourning:
November 24, 2016
12:00 noon
Coles Hill Plymouth, MA
Plymouth, Massachusetts

500 Nations Wikipedia Above Image Link
500 Nations YouTube
Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4