In this week’s episode Russell Willier speaks with Joanna about: government and religious pressure on Cree culture, native ways driven underground; the difficulty of living in between traditions; persecution of traditional healers; the global culture of traditional healing; the need to preserve wild areas where medicinal plants grow; bringing the dignity and pride to the new generations; the decline of plants and animals in Canada; healing is praying; stories of Spirit; slowing down in a fast world; signs of change in Nature.
Russell Willier was born on the Sucker Creek reserve in northern Alberta. He grew up in a large family of twelve brothers and sisters. His father was a skilled hunter and trapper who passed his knowledge about the traditional Woods Cree way of life on to his son. Even at an early age, Russell showed signs of having been selected by the Spirit World to be a healer, but he resisted for many years. Eventually, he accepted this responsibility and received the medicine bundle of his great grandfather, Moostoos, a well-known healer in the area and signer of Treaty 8. By the time Willier received his medicine bundle, the knowledge of how to use the little plant packets inside it had been lost, so Russell showed them to elders and asked if they knew how these ‘combinations” were used. Gradually, over many years, Russell pieced together the information he needed to begin to practice as a Medicine Man. Willier, who still lives on the Sucker Creek Reserve, travels extensively to treat those who call upon him for help. He is the co-author, with David Young and Robert Rogers, of “A Cree Healer and his Medicine Bundle. Revelations of Indigenous Wisdom – Healing Plants, Practices and Stories.”