"Traveling Around Prince of Wales Island" Prince of Wales Island by mcpangie

Prince of Wales Island Travel Guide: 6 reviews and 12 photos

Medicine Woman of the 1990's

In February 1998 I had the chance to travel to the Indian village of Hydaburg, approximately 30 miles from Craig, Alaska on the Western coast of Prince of Wales Island. The population of Hydaburg is mainly Haida, Tsimshian, and Tlingit Indians.

My position at Women In Safe Homes brought me to communities all over lower-Southeast Alaska where I spoke with students of all ages. For pre-school through the younger grades I taught personal safety, and in the older grades I talked about domestic and dating violence, date rape, and child abuse.

I had just finished one session, and had about a half-hour to wait. I went to where I had left some supplies, and stood watching the mist floating around the grand totem poles in the courtyard in front of the elementary school. I introduced myself to a gentleman waiting for some information from the superintendent. As we watched the totem poles, and the drenching rains, he told me a little about the history of Hydaburg. A great man, master carver John Wallace, had helped create the park. Upon arriving home in Ketchikan, I got the chance to see the Hydaburg creator's grandson, a carver named Lee Wallace who currently lives in Saxman, Alaska.

We talked about why I was in Hydaburg, what my position was with Women In Safe Homes. He told me that I was, "A medicine woman of the 1990's." I had never thought of myself that exact way before, and asked for clarification. I told him that I was raised Catholic, but as I read about shamanism, that it was hard sometimes to combine my Christian beliefs with what I knew to be true. I told him I have awareness, or basic understanding and various synchronicities happening (the parrot bite incident) happening in my life. He said, "Well, not so much a medicine woman, but a healer." The idea is what struck me. He'd caught on in a half hour of knowing me what my calling was.

He talked a lot about how people need to be positive, and that dwelling on the past won't solve anything. In the past he talked about how the people worked at solving problems, not complaining about them.

Healing involves the same things that our past has taught us. He emphasized how important our roots are... they anchor us, and ground us, help us understand who we are. The young people that are in trouble don't understand who they are. Many people don't see they are a great tree with roots reaching into the past.

For younger generations, perhaps world wide there is a sense of not understanding who "we" are. Not just indigenous peoples, but young people from all cultural groups, and all walks of life. There are many options and fewer guides. Throughout human history, our guides have been the storytellers, the shaman, and priests whose basic function was help people interpret the world around them (nature). The storytellers brought with these stories interpretations on how to be a human being living in this world. As scientific inquiry replaces those who have taught us a sense of morality, of course it seems as if the world is becoming a cold and impersonal place.

The topics changed, and time flew by. I explained a little about my family, and how my ancestors were from the Kuskokwim and Yukon. His wife is an Athabaskan from Chickaloon. He talked about how the Athabaskan are the largest tribe in the world. I wish I remembered more about him, I'd like to talk to him again. That was one of those life altering conversations and I can't even remember his name.

  • Intro Written Jan 28, 2004
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