My great grandmother, Albinita Mares
On Sunday, I went to my friend Karen's home to meet Russell FourEagles, an Indian medicine man. Russell lives in Wisconsin but travels to California a handful of times a year for healings. I had never met a medicine man before but I had heard that his work was miraculous. I wanted to experience it and see what he had to offer.
A slight man, dressed in shorts, a t-shirt and a bandana tied around his head, Russell burned sage and waved it around me with a fan made of feathers. After I settled onto a long table, not unlike a massage table, he began waving a hand up and down the length of my body, not touching me. One of his first questions for me was, "What nation are you from?"
"Mescalero Apache," I answered.
"I could tell from your DNA," he said.
We were off to a good start. My great grandmother, Albinita was Mescalero. An orphan, she was raised by the Indians at San Miguel Mission in New Mexico. Albinita had nine children. One of them was my paternal grandfather, Nelson. I wondered if she had ever visited a medicine man.
I was grateful that I wasn't bringing any ailments with me to the healing. I told him that I was just checking in for a tune-up. He confirmed that I was doing well.
"And you're good. Why are you doing so good?" he said.
"Because I'm happy."
He asked how I was with alcohol. I told him that I was great with it since I stopped drinking it twenty-six years ago. He asked how I was before I stopped. I told him that I was a mess. We talked about how people of Native American descent are genetically at a disadvantage when it comes to metabolizing sugar and alcohol. His hand never stopped moving back and forth.
I told him that I had been eating raw vegan lately.
"That's good. You know the Indians have a term for 'vegan.'"
"What's that?" I said.
We talked about Indian history. He told me the story of how his Oneida grandfather came to the United States from Canada. He told me that he thought it was funny that people called what he did "alternative medicine" because what he does has been around so much longer than western medicine, he thought of western as the real "alternative."
I have friends who met Russell and were sent home with lists of herbs and teas to take for various ailments. Some were told to call him so that he could do further healings with them over the phone. This modern medicine man uses a cell phone as one of his healing tools.
If you'd like to learn more about Russell FourEagles, and see him at work, you can go to this Kickstarter site where a pair of film makers are working on a documentary about him.
- Lisa "Bad Hunter" Rosenberg