The Secret of Plants
December 14, 2010
"It took me 14 years to learn these things, and I'm still learning."
William Jerome, Mi'qmaq
"When Jacques Cartier landed in Gespeg in 1534, his crew survived thanks to Mi'gmaq remedies," says William Jerome. Like his ancestors, he uses traditional practices to help his fellow humans regain their health, both for their body and their soul. The knowledge he acquired from the members of his nation was enriched through encounters with Algonquin, Iroquois and Innu healers. With them, he shared the secrets of plants, how to make remedies and how to use them. Like them, he contributes to the preservation of an ancestral knowledge that enabled Jacques Cartier to continue his explorations.
Report of an interview with Richard Moar
How will we work on healing? My grandfather, at one point, told us, “Rediscover the tools we once had. It’s from there that you’ll be able to heal.” You know, our grandfather communicated this to us, but others didn't want to hear any of it. There are still elders among us, who would never dare, who don’t want to believe in this, y’know, they just don’t want. They don’t want to know what it is, y’know, because it’s been instilled in them that the drum, the ceremonies, the rituals, are all evil.
Y’know, we scared them, and that's the fear that still exists, that's still pervasive among some elders. But there are others who have started to follow us. Perhaps only partially, but they support us, they discreetly tell us, “This is good for you.” He was one of the last persons to conduct sweats.
But, as I said earlier, I keep digging and digging. Meaning not just in the ground, but in people's memories. I’m working a lot on this with the elders. But, in order for them to recover that memory, they must see certain things.
I started in 1992. I started looking for something else to keep me healthy. I became interested in ceremonies and even got to the rain dance. It's more practiced in western Canada, but we went to Manitoulin Island, Ontario, near Sudbury.
A village called Wiikwemkoong. They were healers. They were guardians. They were the ones who safeguarded ceremonies. They told us that the rain dance belonged to the Atikamekw. As for us, at first, we weren't sure. It had to be confirmed by our grandfathers. Well, at that time, our grandfathers didn't dare talk much about such things. Some people are aware of individuals with powers, natural gifts, and who played with around with them, in the sense that they were almost able to kill a person with their power. They sometimes call this, magic.
When we heard that the rain dance belonged to the Atikamekw, we headed there. I went to perform in the ceremony. I went to live the experience of the ceremony, to live the rain dance rituals for four years, but mostly in healing. A lot for healing. Because, at that time, my wife was also starting to be sick. So I went to dance and fast.
I did 4 years with rain dance, all the while asking questions. And when I came back to Manawan, I would discuss it with my uncle, who was a certain age. I only told him these things to help him develop his memory.
At some point, my uncle comes to me. He tells me (we were preparing the site). He says to me, “Richard, I remember now." He says, “I saw one like this on the territory.” And he was talking about sacred places.
And I was happy! I was happy that we confirmed it because we brought the rain dance back to Manawan. Y’know, we do it in Manawan. Now, we have grandfathers who received gifts to help the community.
It’s a great source of pride to have succeeded in finding these tools for ourselves, which belonged to us, which belonged to our ancestors.
That's my journey, prodding into people's memories.
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