My grandmother said that everything was used for healing. Even those that are eaten such as beaver, caribou and bear. When someone was aching, lungs were used as compress. The gall bladder of a bear had a very healing effect on a person, said my grandmother, when rubbed as an ointment on the body. Everything. Even fir tree boughs were pounded and placed on the body where there was an ache. And those Labrador tea, the large ones, were pounded and placed on the body and on the head. That was what was used, she said. Newly grown Labrador tea buds and also the inner bark of the tamarack with the black outer bark removed were used as compress. The bark was pounded and used for compress even for children. When a child had sniffles, it was very good when that was done. Even drinking that bark when it was boiled. Those willows, mishkumishii (mountain ash tree), the growth and the outer bark were pounded and compressed on where one wanted to compress on the head or body.

Long ago, I remember women would use ashes for washing clothes. That was even useful for healing, said my grandmother. That is called ashwater (lye) when it is good and clear. It was used as a rinse on severe cuts or axe wounds. When they didn’t have medicine that is was they must have used. The injury would not be infected even if that lye was just used.

When someone accidently cut themselves, the runny sap that is under the wood would be used. It is called under wood gum by the Cree. It is very healing. Even I used it when I healed someone. When my partner chopped himself severely, I would use the sap. Nothing bad would happen when that was used—even in severe cases.

Beaver castorium, wiiduuwii (beaver rectum) that is attached to the castorium, and even its fat is also very good for healing. My partner’s hand looked severe; his palm was split on one of his hands. It made me unhappy to see his hand like that. When I used pills it didn’t help. But when I used raw beaver fat as a compress, that was what healed him. That is how healing beaver is when used for healing. Either eating it or using it as a compress. When a woman had a bad headache it was very healing. But that is one thing I didn’t do.

That is ancient Cree people’s medicine. They didn’t use “modern” medicine but only what they had knowledge of. To heal themselves, my grandmother said they tried what they had knowledge of. Some of what they used helped.

(As told by Mary Bearskin)