Thursday, October 13, 2005
(Picture of blog's author in foggy Kodiak.) I just finished reading a book written by Joanne B. Mulcahy, "Birth and Rebirth On An Alaskan Island." It is the story of an Alutiiq healer, Mary Peterson. Besides reading about the wonderful Alutiiq midwives, I read about a healer or medicine woman that I actually went to see when I was a little girl, Oleanna. I would guess that I was probably five or six, not in school yet. I had been diagnosed with a heart murmur and had been sent to Anchorage for tests. I returned to the village and soon after, my parents did what they felt was the thing to do, they sent me to Oleanna Ashouwak's home which was in another village. I have always been stoic about situations that I find myself in and leaving home by myself and at such a young age had to have been traumatic, but I don't remember crying. After a few weeks, my parents were concerned about my being away from home alone and they sent my older sister to be with me. (burgundyrose). I can remember the day I saw her scrambling out of the plane! She used to get so embarrassed in front of people that her cheeks would get rosy red! I loved those rosy cheeks that day! (Oh, I still do, Sis!) I don't remember much about the "treatments" I received but can remember being scolded for getting ticklish when Oleanna was pressing my tummy and doing what I learned from the book is called "holding". She would keep her hand on my head as she moved the other around my tummy. Some people from Old Harbor (where I came from) called her a "witchdoctor". I don't even know if her care cured me. Mom said that I was a sick baby when I was first born so she had my Grandmother care for me and she made me drink tea. The book's author, Mulcahy, wrote that Oleanna had a village status that was similar to the male shamans. Oleanna lived in a village called Kaguyak. This village was further South than Old Harbor and was also wiped out after the 1964 Earthquake and Tidal Wave but never rebuilt. After Kaguyak, Oleanna then lived in Akhiok. I saw her when she lived in Kaguyak. She was originally from another abandoned village named Aiaktalik. I don't remember too much about being in the healer's home except for washing dishes and hiding from drunk people that stopped by her home. One time my sister and I crawled under Oleanna's (Pronounced Ol-yanna) bed and waited until the man left. My sister and I quietly listened and tried not to laugh when we saw the dust-bunnies rolling around from our heavy breathing. I heard Dad tell the story about a woman that took a young guy out of the village for treatment. He had been told he would soon die from tuberculosis and that there was nothing more that could be done for him. (Sent home from Kodiak Hospital.) He was very skinny and could barely walk to the skiff they left the village in. After the summer, when they returned, he was strong and healthy and lived to a ripe old age. The book includes a story like that about Oleanna. I think it is the same story Dad told but I didn't remember that it was Oleanna. The Healer's knowledge was passed on orally so lots of good information has been lost concerning health care when they died. It was not written down. The village Healer's and Mid-wives knew a lot about healing herbs. They used teas made from wild plants. I try to drink more tea since I can remember many of the elders drinking it, slowly. It not only calms me but it helps me relax. The book was interesting to me, maybe because I am from the area and maybe because I was part of Oleanna's life at one time. Healing is something we all will seek sometime in our lives, where ever we may be. It's interesting to read how people back then treated their health problems. I am thankful for modern treatments too, that knowledge is incredible but there is just something wonderful about walking out into the field and finding your medicine there, for free! Lifting my cup of herbal tea to all those that take the time to help others. God bless!