Mary Lebrun and Violet Prince
Mary Lebrun and her sister, Violet Prince recently taught community members how to use and make medicines at the Elder’s Society. The Elders, along with their sister Maggie Morris, learned medicines from their mother growing up. “Our mother was an herbalist,” says Violet, “and so is our sister, Maggie.”
All three sisters gather traditional medicines and teach others, too. The College of New Caledonia asked the sisters to speak on the uses of pitch and Devil’s Club in the fall. Seventy five students were expected, but over 100 showed up to learn. The Nak’azdli Health Center also consults with the Elders on traditional medicines. “We want the young people to learn, too,” the sisters add.
Each Fall and Spring Violet and Mary collect plants. “It is important to pray to the Creator before gathering medicines,” continues Violet, “and to offer tobacco after they have been picked.” She adds, “We also say prayers while we are mixing the medicines and before using them.”
On this day at the Elder’s Society, Violet and Mary are making medicines with Devil’s Club and Red Willow. Both can be used for treating pain. They can be mixed together or used individually. Red Willow is used to treat cuts, sores, burns and tendonitis, too. Devil’s Club is used to treat rash, psoriasis, aches and pains.
“The Creator has given us all of these medicines to use. We thank Him and ask the Creator to bless those who will use the medicine.”
The sisters combine one part water, one part vodka and one part medicinal plant. Devil’s Club has thorns that should be carefully removed with a knife. The stalks, roots and bark can all be cut up and used. The mixture is left in a lidded glass container for one to three months. The longer it is left, the more powerful it will be.
After the mixture has been left for the recommended length of time, the mixture is strained through a sieve. The strained liquid is added to coldcream and mixed thoroughly. This medicine can then be stored in a plastic or glass container and applied as needed. “We never charge money for our medicines,” adds Violet. “If people want, they can give us tobacco which we use as an offering when we go out gathering.”