Native American Indian Lore
The Origin of Medicine
At one time, animals and people lived together peaceably and talked with each other.
But when mankind began to multiply rapidly, the animals were crowded into forests and
Man began to destroy animals wholesale for their skins and furs, not just for needed
food. Animals became angry at such treatment by their former friends, resolving they
must punish mankind.
The bear tribe met in council, presided over by Old White Bear, their Chief. After
several bears had spoken against mankind for their bloodthirsty ways, war was
unanimously agreed upon. But what kinds of weapons should the bears use?
Chief Old White Bear suggested that man's weapon, the bow and arrow, should be
turned against him. All of the council agreed. While the bears worked and made bows
and arrows, they wondered what to do about bowstrings. One of the bears sacrificed
himself to provide the strings, while the others searched for good arrow- wood.
When the first bow was completed and tried, the bear's claws could not release the
strings to shoot the arrow. One bear offered to cut his claws, but Chief Old White Bear
would not allow him to do that, because without claws he could not climb trees for food
and safety. He might starve.
The deer tribe called together its council led by Chief Little Deer. They decided that any
Indian hunters, who killed deer without asking pardon in a suitable manner, should be
afflicted with painful rheumatism in their joints.
After this decision, Chief Little Deer sent a messenger to their nearest neighbours, the
"From now on, your hunters must first offer a prayer to the deer before killing him,"
said the messenger. "You must ask his pardon, stating you are forced only by the
hunger needs of your tribe to kill the deer. Otherwise, a terrible disease will come to the
When a deer is slain by an Indian hunter, Chief Little Deer will run to the spot and ask
the slain deer's spirit, "Did you hear the hunter's prayer for pardon?"
If the reply is yes, then all is well and Chief Little Deer returns to his cave. But if the
answer is no, then the Chief tracks the hunter to his lodge and strikes him with the
terrible disease of rheumatism, making him a helpless cripple unable to hunt again.
All the fishes and reptiles then held a council and decided they would haunt those
Cherokee Indians, who tormented them, by telling them hideous dreams of serpents
twining around them and eating them alive. These snake and fish dreams occurred often
among the Cherokees. To get relief, the Cherokees pleaded with their Shaman to banish
their frightening dreams if they no longer tormented the snakes and fish.
Now when the friendly plants heard what the animals had decided against mankind, they
planned a countermove of their own. Each tree, shrub, herb, grass, and moss agreed to
furnish a cure for one of the diseases named by the animals and insects.
Thereafter, when the Cherokee Indians visited their Shaman about their ailments and if
the medicine man was in doubt, he communed with the spirits of the plants. They always
suggested a proper remedy for mankind's diseases.
This was the beginning of plant medicine from nature among the Cherokee Indian
nation a long, long time ago.
Native American Lore
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