Kitchen Beauty

Medicine Mama

Posted on March 22, 2015 by Dana Wood

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Screenshot 2015-03-21 10.26.04

A few months ago, my older brother (the unofficial family archivist) forwarded a creaky old document via email.

It was charming, and illuminating – a vivid slice of our history – but I must admit that I skimmed right through it. “Awwww, that is so sweet,” I said to myself after a quick read. And then I dove right back into my busy day.

Only months later, after a Skype session with Color Therapy expert Kath Roberts (see LOLI’s excellent Q+A with Kath here), would I connect the dots between what my brother sent me, and my past, present and future.

The document – anyone can see it, in PDF form, in the digital library of the University of Oklahoma – is an interview with a long-deceased Native American relative of mine, Milley Fish Gilroy.

Part of a large “Indian-Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma,” the interview with Milley was conducted by a field worker in May1937. And according to the front cover of the PDF, the topics covered in the sit-down chat included:

Interview with Milley Fish Gilroy (Little Fish), May 26, 1937.

Interview with my Native American ancestor,
Milley Fish Gilroy (Little Fish), May 26, 1937.

Creek Nation
Tribe: Creek
Little Fish
Medicine Man
Indian Medicines
Sever’s Store
Indian Ponies




Mostly, the interview centers around Milley’s dad – and my great, great grandfather – who went by the name of Little Fish.

He was “a big, big Medicine Man, a great Medicine Man, the Micco of Muyaka Town, always, until his death last year,” Milley tells the field-worker.

She goes on to describe how Little Fish believed in the Great Spirit, and would use a special stick to write in the sand any wisdom the Great Spirit imparted to him. In turn, Little Fish would share the Great Spirit’s knowledge with all those who came to him for help, be it for their health, or finances, or other important matters of the day.Screenshot 2015-03-21 12.34.25

But mainly, Little Fish was an herb doctor. “I know some of the names of medicines he used, but you wouldn’t know how to use them, so it wouldn’t do you any good,” Milley says, rather cheekily.

Still, Milley goes on to list a few of Little Fish’s favorite healing ingredients. Screenshot 2015-03-21 13.13.31

“Red root, white root, hickory elm, second bark, poke root, blackberry root, wild cherries – there were
a lot of things.”

Though the document contains a few disturbing snippets here and there – apparently my relatives owned slaves before the Civil War – it’s fascinating. And so full of detail! There are descriptions of how my ancestors crafted their own matches from gunpowder, and a loving look back at Little Fish’s prized horse, Crop-Eared John.

“Everyone knew old Crop-Eared John, he was 46 years old when he died in 1926.,” Milley says. “He had been stolen any number of times, but he was always followed and brought back. A couple of times he was taken to Kansas, and once to Arkansas. He was an extra good saddle horse.”

Flash forward to 2015 and that Skype session with Kath Roberts I mentioned earlier.

Kath – talented, articulate, dynamic Kath – was introduced to me by Tina, LOLI founder and people-connector extraordinaire.

When Tina decided we should interview Kath for LOLI, she thought it would make sense for me to have a Color Therapy session myself first, to fully wrap my mind around what it entails, and how it can help us in our daily lives.

Read more – much more – about Kath’s work here.

So on a recent Sunday, Kath and I – she in the U.K., me here on the Gulf Coast of Florida – had our Skype session.

It was so, so, so good. Seriously. I loved every second of it.

But while a lot of my session with Kath is too personal – and not helpful to you – to get into here, I will share a key piece.

Prior to our meeting, in doing whatever it is she does to prep for her initial client sessions (I could never begin to describe it), Kath had already sensed my Native American heritage, and that I had a family history of healing.

One of LOLI's shaman feathers for office smudging ceremonies.

One of LOLI’s shaman feathers for office smudging ceremonies.

To be successful in my life moving forward, Kath told me, I should try to find a way to tap into my “shaman” side.

Immediately the wheels started turning and a bit of panic kicked-in. “What could I do that is even remotely shamanic?,” I asked. “Should I become an aromatherapist? I do so love essential oils.”

Kath suggested – quite politely, mind you – that it was up to me to figure out the best way to use the advice she was imparting to me, much like Little Fish writing in the sand with his magic stick.

Later, it dawned on me: I don’t have to become something entirely different to fulfill this Medicine Man Manifesto. It’s all right in front of me.

So here are just a few of the ways I’m using my current life to become a 21st century, Modern-Day Medicine Mama:

  • By helping Tina package all her LOLI wisdom for our readers. With everything she knows about beauty ingredients, and wellness, Tina’s a super-chic version of Little Fish.
  • By cooking extra-healthy meals for my husband and daughter.
  • By staying fit, so I have more energy to do stuff that actually matters in this crazy, superficial, 24/7 world.
  • By being open to receiving the messages of the Great Spirit, Little Fish’s North Star.
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