Ways of Knowing: Experience, Knowledge, and Power among the Dene Tha

By Jean-Guy A. Goulet | Go to book overview

4. Powers to Heal, Powers to Respect

Whiteman have lost their soul, they cannot be helped.

-- DeneTha speaker

In the preceding chapter we saw how the successful conclusion of a first healing ritual confirms that the relationship between an animal helper and a particular individual is well established. Because of the success the healer's reputation is bound to grow, along with the number of calls on his assistance to help others. Dene Tha healers do not advertise their power or their ability to cure; it is up to others to find out how a healer can help and what gifts to bring. As one healer said: "It always has been like that. You don't just go help someone; you have to be asked. You bring a gift of their liking, because if they help somebody and that person does not give them something they like, they could get sick themselves." Another, forty-year-old healer explained: "You don't just go around helping, because if you help somebody and that person does not give you something, you could get sick yourself." Or, as another Dene Tha put it, "You give something to the person who helps you; the gift is for the power they have." Gifts vary from healer to healer, depending on what the animal helper has told them it wanted to receive. Gifts may consist of a combination of tobacco, parts of animals, feathers, ribbons, coins, shirts, bullets, and rifles.1


Being Sick and Healed the Indian Way

It is part of Dene Tha teachings that "long ago there were no doctors, and people who had visions were like doctors [who] would cure others" (a DeneTha Elder, in Moore and Wheelock 1990, 75). To cure others, Dene Tha would draw not only on , animal parts, herbs, roots, bark, and the leaves of shrubs and trees, known to have medicinal properties, but also on ech'int'e, which they had received as a gift from their animal helper. Although contemporary DeneTha consult doctors, they also continue to rely on people who know an animal. This is the case when one is

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Ways of Knowing: Experience, Knowledge, and Power among the Dene Tha
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • 1. Stories from the Field 1
  • 2. True Knowledge and True Responsibility 27
  • 3. Powerful Beings and Being Powerful 60
  • 4. Powers to Heal, Powers to Respect 88
  • 5. Visions of Conflict, Conflicts of Vision 109
  • 6. Journeys of the Soul 142
  • 7. Searching for a Womb 167
  • 8. When the Drum and the Rosary Meet 193
  • 9. Dancing Your Way to Heaven 223
  • 10. An Experiential Approach to Knowledge 246
  • Notes 261
  • References 287
  • Index 329
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