Medicine man wants to confer ancient knowledge


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February 16, 2016 9:10 AM

As generations come and go, sometimes knowledge disappears with them.
One local man fears this is happening with herbal medicine, at least within his own native community.
Self-proclaimed medicine man Jason Johnson is taking steps at not just recovering this knowledge, but passing it along to whomever is interested with a class he’ll be teaching next month in Border City.
“I decided to do an herb class because there’s nothing out there for herbalism basically,” said Johnson.
“To make a long story short I’ve been studying herbs for 20 years on my own.”
Johnson said he used to learn from a lady named Kaley Keen, who taught classes on herbalism in Saskatoon around 15 years ago, but they have lost touch and he hasn’t been able to track her down since.
He said he recently took a look at his community and saw there was a need — as there was nobody teaching the subject of herbs anymore — so he decided to take it upon himself.
This March Johnson will be teaching his program “Introduction to Local Herbs in Saskatchewan” where he’ll discuss 10 local herbs and how they are used in folklore and homeopathic medicine.
“I have over 110 students who are interested now in the Lloydminster and North Battleford areas,” Johnson said.
He was born and raised with native traditions so getting into herbal medicines came naturally for Johnson, who has taught about them privately for a number of years. Johnson said he comes from a long line of medicine men and women, who have been practicing in the area since Big Bear was chief of the Cree people.
He is passionate about practising with herbal medicine and culturally his spirit animal is the bear, which is also traditionally linked with herbs and roots.
Some of the medicines that can be made from herbs work on everything from common headaches and colds, to flus, arthritis and stomach problems.
“What I found out within my native community in Little Pine (First Nation), a lot of elders have passed away already — the ones that had the herbal knowledge,” he said.
“Some elders know a little about it, but it’s becoming very sparse.”
Because the knowledge is becoming so sparse, Johnson said he resorts to books to continue educating himself, reading some of them multiple times to ingrain the information into his memory.
With his 20 years of experience, Johnson saw the opportunity to share what he’s picked up to try and keep the tradition alive.
The main purpose of his classes, though, is more to spread awareness that much of the growth people consider just weeds are actually components that can be used in homeopathic remedies. “They’re medicines; they’e very powerful,” he said.
“A lot of people don’t know about it, they just consider them weeds but that’s why I’m trying to raise awareness, to let people know that these are our medicines.”

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