A Medicine Man’s Daughter

By Canadian Cree First Nations Author Nanci Des Gerlaise
From chapter 1 of Muddy Waters: an insider’s view of North American Native Spirituality

The darkness clutched me like a shroud, alive with evil, poking, prodding, whispering and hissing its unmistakable message: Fear. Slavery. Terror. Death. Buried under my blanket, I held my breath, with my eyes squeezed shut, while my chest became taut with fear like the skin on the drum the medicine men pounded. Around me, the house lay all too quiet, while the muted sounds of the forest, with its hoots, chirrups, and rustling magnified my fear.

How can my family rest so peacefully? I wondered for the thousandth time. Don’t they feel this evil presence? Am I the only one?

As long as I’d lived, it had always been there. I popped another sleeping pill and waited for its calming effects to set in. But I had been taking too many, and they were losing their effect. In desperation, I popped a third one, gulping it down with water, and waited for the blessed unconsciousness to hit.

Such was my life from the time I was a young adult until I was almost forty years old.

* * * * * *

I was born in the late 1950s into a family of sixteen children on a Métis Settlement in Alberta, Canada. My family descended from a long line of medicine men, which included both my Grandpa John and my dad. Often, the two spent time in the sweat lodge praying for healing, guidance, or whatever they needed. Our home always seemed filled with a dark evil presence that created havoc during the day and crippled me with fear at night. The objects Grandpa and Papa kept had demonic spirits “attached” to them, like the medicine bundle, the sacred pipes, the “protection” (from evil spirits), and other similar items. Grandpa John used to make “protection” for all of his descendants, which he gave us when we turned eighteen. This “protection” was merely a fetish sewn inside a leather pouch with either a leather throng to wear around the neck or waist, or a safety pin to pin on clothing.

Grandpa also used to make voodoo dolls, asking me to cut pictures of people out of magazines. I have a sneaking suspicion he used their pictures for the faces of the voodoo dolls, because he used to laugh about it when I asked him why he wanted the pictures.

The daily effects this kind of influence had on our family were tremendous. It was a strange and difficult childhood, full of hard work, abuse, neglect, and alcoholism. In addition, the practice of Native Spirituality in my home made my life a living hell as a child. Eerie things happened constantly—mystical experiences that were far more than just feelings but were strange and frightening realities. Far too many of these occurred to discount them as imagination or coincidence. For instance, when my parents left us at home alone at night, some presence would almost always harass us, as though watching us through the windows. We’d all race to the other side of the house, screaming and crying in terror. Only after the visitation ended would we slowly come out of hiding.

We used to camp out on our lawn in canvas tents for fun. But when darkness began to blanket the daylight, we would see a mystical light appear across the river as though someone was carrying a torch—only no one visible. Not so long ago, this same mystical light appeared in another area of the same community. And in times past, we also would hear a baby crying when there was no baby present. Even if our neighbors had had a baby, they lived too far away for us to hear it cry.

I also saw silhouettes of people, and a big black dog appeared inside our home at night a few times and then disappeared. But we didn’t own a big black dog. Once when this happened, the next morning I told Dad, “There was a big black dog running around inside the house last night. He ran from your room to our bedroom looking at everyone. I was sleeping on the couch so I had a better view of where he came from and where he went. Then suddenly, he went through the door and was gone.”

“Someone shapeshifting,” Dad told me. “Checking us out to see what was going on in our home.” Native Spirituality believes that shapeshifting allows one to take on an animal form while visiting on the astral plane. The enemy loves to cripple and control people through fear. Nightmares were also a part of this evil package. Sometimes, I’d wake up to find a creature like a lizard crawling on my legs over the top of the blankets. Something told me to pinch it as hard as I could on its feet. When I did, it disappeared. A few times I awoke to find about the first three inches of the top edge of the blanket so heavy that I had to fight and struggle to get it off. Yet, there was nothing on it, and because I was not under the covering of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, I would stay awake for hours, terrified about returning to sleep, fearing that whatever it was would return. Now that I am a born-again Christian I rarely have nightmares, but when I do, I rebuke the enemy in Jesus’ name. It flees, and I fall right back to sleep. That’s the power in Jesus’ name.

Despite the strain and stresses of home life, there were times that life on our farm in a ranch-style house on the prairies was fun. My siblings and I loved to race to the creek downhill from our house, away from where our horses, cows, pigs, geese, and chickens would be. One day while my parents were in town shopping, my brother decided we should have a rodeo at the barn. We all ran to get the horses ready. We selected a two-year-old stud that wasn’t broken in yet to compete against each other. He was a wild one, and most of us got bucked off immediately. Only one brother could stay on for a couple of minutes. We soon got tired of the horses, so we would move on to riding the pigs. No one was able to stay on the pigs longer than the horse—except our second eldest brother who stayed on for a minute. I suppose this is what happens when there’s no television to watch, but we were never bored and always found something to do.

But in spite of these “normal” childhood experiences, an underlying current of a mystical spirituality permeated our young lives. In fact, it affected nearly every aspect of our lives. (from chapter 1 of Muddy Waters: an insider’s view of North American Native Spirituality by Nanci Des Gerlaise)

Related Articles by Nanci Des Gerlaise

Two Sources of Power But Only One Source of Truth

Dream Catchers – Those Popular Spidery “Sacred Hoops”

Native Spirituality “Renewal” Emerges

The Dangers of Sweat Lodge Ceremonies



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