Cherokee - In the old days the beasts
"In the old days the beasts, birds, fishes, insects and plants could all talk and they and the people lived together in peace and friendship. But as time went on the people increased so rapidly that... the poor animals found themselves beginning to be cramped for room. ... Man .. begin to slaughter the larger animals... for their flesh or skins, while the smaller creatures,, were crushed.. So the animals resolved to consult upon measures for their common safety.
The Bears were the first to meet in council... and the old White Bear Chief presided. After each in turn had complained of the way in which Man killed their friends.. it was decided to begin war at once against him. .. But when everything was ready and the first Bear stepped up to make the trial it was found that.. his long claws.. spoiled the shot.. someone suggested that they might trim his claws .. the old White Bear, objected, saying it was necessary that they should have long claws.
No one could think of any better plan so the old Chief dismissed the council and the Bears dispersed.. without having concerted any way to prevent the increase of the human race...
The Deer next held council under the chief, the Little Deer, and after some talk decided to send rheumatism to every hunter who should kill one of them unless he took care to ask their pardon for the offense...
Next cane the Fishes and Reptiles, who had their own complaints against Man. They held their council together and determined to make victims dream...
Finally the Birds Insects and smaller animals came together ..the grubworm was chief of the council. It was decided that each in turn should give an opinion, and then they would vote on the question as to whether or not man was guilty. Seven votes should be enough to condemn him.
When the Plants, who were friendly to man heard what had been done by the animals, they determined to defeat the latter's evil designs, Each tree, shrub and herb, down even to the grasses and mosses, agreed to furnish a cure for someone of the diseased named, and each said: " I shall appear to help man when he calls upon me in his need" Thus came medicine.
A Cherokee's concept of Nun-wa-ti, medince, is likely to include comtacting a greater power for aid. Cherokee medicine involved home remedies and asking the medicine man for advise and treatment. Cherokee medicine had an additional aspect: the interrelationship of religion and medicine.
Some remedies were probably widely known and used by the people. Various plants called "snakeroot" were known to be a cure for snakebite. Some of the lichens became known as blood leather from their use in stopping the flow of blood from wounds. If a person worked too hard he might make a poultice of the seven-bark hydrangea to ease the aches and pains.
When the home treatment did not effect a cure a medicine man was called. He was available to help in cases that were more serious, or prolonged than usual. He had the special talents and knowledge for finding, preparing, and administering that proper remedy. A clever medicine man know when a complaint wasnt a psychical illness but rather a lack of attention from others. He inspired confidence and applied the salve of attention to the wounded ego.
James Mooney was skeptical of the medicinal properties of the plants used. He compared a list of twenty Cherokee medicinal plants with those listed in the pharmaceutical directory of the day, Untied States Dispenstory. He found twenty-five percent of the Cherokee plants were used as the dispensatory recommended. Another sixty percent were either not listed or were used incorrectly according to the dispensatory. The rest of the medicinal plants were used in ways that were difficult to judge correct or incorrect form the dispensatory.
When faced with a very difficult case the medicine man involved his patient in the specific rituals and prayers. Some of these prayers, the Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees, have come to us mainly from A-Yun-i-ni, the Swimmer. Swimmer gave a list of some ninety formulas, written in the characters of the Sequoyah syllabary, to James Mooney.
Source: CHEROKEE PLANTS their uses-- a 400 year history.
By Paul B Hamel and Mary U Chiltoskey