Friday, January 23, 2015


That’s the universal question many mixed-blood American Indians are asked every day. How many times have you mentioned in passing that you are Cherokee to find your conversation interrupted by intrusive questions about percentage? How many times have you answered those questions? Well stop! That’s right — stop answering rude questions.

Have you ever been talking to someone who mentioned that they were part Hispanic, part African-American, part Jewish, part Italian, part Korean, etc.? Have you ever asked them what percentage? Hopefully your answer is no, because if your answer is yes, then you’re rude. It would be rude to ask someone what part Hispanic they are, but we accept that people can ask us what part Cherokee we are. This is a double standard brought about by our collective history as American Indians, and is one we should no longer tolerate.

The history of blood quantum begins with the Indian rolls and is a concept introduced to American Indians by white culture. Throughout early Native history, blood never really played a factor in determining who was or was not included in a tribe. Many American Indian tribes practiced adoption, a process whereby non-tribal members would be adopted into the tribe and over time become fully functioning members of the group. Adoption was occasionally preceded by capture. Many tribes would capture members of neighboring tribes, white settlers, or members of enemy tribes. These captives would replace members of the tribe who had died. They would often be bestowed with some of the same prestige and duties of the person they were replacing. While the transformation from captive to tribal member was often a long and difficult one, the captive would eventually become an accepted member of the tribe. The fact that the adoptee was sometimes of a different ethnic origin was of little importance to the tribe.

It wasn’t until the federal government became involved in Indian government that quantum became an issue. One of the attributes collected on a person signing one of the many Indian rolls was their quantum. However, this was highly subjective as it was simply a question that the roll takers would allow the people to answer for themselves.

In this day and age, however, quantum is heavily relied upon for determining eligibility for tribal recognition. In order to become a registered citizen of any federally recognized Cherokee tribe you must first get a CDIB (Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood). This CDIB is issued by the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) and simply states that the United States government certifies that you have a specified degree of Indian blood and are eligible to be a member of a given federally recognized tribe. Once you have a CDIB you can become a recognized citizen of that tribe.

In addition, many Indian tribes include their own quantum restrictions for citizenship. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians requires that you be 1/16 or higher to join, and the United Keetowah Band requires a blood quantum of 1/4 or higher. The Cherokee Nation, on the other hand, has no quantum restrictions. The majority of the Cherokee Nation has 1/4 or less Indian blood.

When considering these numbers it is important to remember that the Cherokee were in direct contact with white settlers very early in American history. Many prominent Cherokee families include intermarried whites as far back as the colonial period — prior to the American Revolution. As you can imagine, with over two hundred years of intermarriage, many Cherokee today have some very confusing fractions to spit out every time someone asks, “What part Indian are you?”

But why do we, as tribes or individuals, think that a number is sufficient in proving our Cherokeeness? Blood quantum is just that — a number — a sterile, inhuman way of calculating authenticity. When a person asks, “What part Cherokee are you?” they are trying to quantify your authenticity. If the answer given is a small percentage or an incomprehensible fraction, the answerer’s Cherokeeness is called into question. Why?

We are not Gregor Mendel’s cross-pollinated pea plants; we are people. Our ethnicity and cultural identity is tied to our collective and ancestral history, our upbringing, our involvement with our tribe and community, our experiences, memories and self-identity. To measure our “Indianness” by a number is to completely eliminate the human element. And to allow others to judge us based on that number is to continue a harmful trend.

Next time someone asks you what part Cherokee you are, tell them it’s irrelevant. If you’re braver than me, challenge them by explaining that they are asking a rude question. Because in the end, the answer doesn’t matter. You’re a whole person, not the sum of your “parts.” If any “part” of you is Cherokee, then you are Cherokee. Period.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


The word entheogen is a neologism derived from the ancient Greek. Entheos literally means "god (theos) within", translates as "inspired" and is the root of the English word "enthusiasm". The Greeks used it as a term of praise for poets and other artists. Genesthe means "to generate". So an entheogen is "that which generates God (or godly inspiration) within a person".

The word entheogen was coined in 1979 by a group of ethnobotanists and scholars of mythology (Carl A. P. Ruck, Jeremy Bigwood, Danny Staples, Richard Evans Schultes, Jonathan Ott and R. Gordon Wasson). The literal meaning of the word is "that which causes God to be within an individual". The translation "creating the divine within" is sometimes given, but it should be noted that entheogen implies neither that something is created (as opposed to just perceiving something that is already there) nor that that which is experienced is within the user (as opposed to having independent existence).

It was coined as a replacement for the terms "hallucinogen" (popularized by Aldous Huxley's experiences with mescaline, published as The Doors of Perception in 1953) and "psychedelic" (a Greek neologism for "mind manifest", coined by psychiatrist Humphry Osmond, who was quite surprised when the well-known author, Aldous Huxley, volunteered to be a subject in experiments Osmond was running on mescaline). Ruck et al. argued that the term "hallucinogen" was inappropriate due to its etymological relationship to words relating to delirium and insanity. The term "psychedelic" was also seen as problematic, due to the similarity in sound to words pertaining to psychosis and also due to the fact that it had become irreversibly associated with various connotations of 1960s pop culture.

An entheogen, in the strictest sense, is a psychoactive substance used in a religious or shamanic context. Entheogens generally come from plant sources which contain molecules closely related to endogenous neurochemicals. They occur in a wide variety of sacraments of various religious rites and have been shown to directly provoke what users perceive as spiritual/mystical experiences.

I have used a few entheogens in ceremonial and ritual work, but I'm neither endorsing or condemning their use. They shouldn't be used by anyone unfamiler with how they may affect the body.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cherokee Medicine People

Cherokee medicine people can be male or female. They believe there are evil medicine people and good ones. In fact, there are many kinds of medicine people in the Cherokee culture. Just as many modern doctors specialize in one area of expertise, so do most natural healers. Most medicine people are really good at curing some things, and don't even try to cure others. And like modern medicine practitioners, there are still a few general practitioners who will try to treat most things, but will refer you to someone else if it's something beyond their personal knowledge.

When something happens outside their realm of understanding, that cannot be explained by the rules of their culture, Cherokee people will say someone has been practicing bad medicine.

The Cherokee believe in witchcraft, but not in the context witches are thought of in anglo cultures. There are two kinds of witches in cherokee culture: ordinary witches and killer witches. Ordinary witches are considered more dangerous since a person can never be sure he is dealing with one, and they are more difficult to detect and counteract. They may deceive a medicine person, and cause them to prescribe the wrong cure if not guarded against. One killer witch who is still spoken of often today, and is mentioned in many Cherokee legends of the Cherokee Nation is the Raven Mocker.

Cherokee medicine men and women study for many years, and learn specific treatments from a written Cherokee syllabary given to them by their mentors. It is forbidden for anyone to look at this book if it isn't theirs, and it is often written in code, or parts are passed on verbally to keep the whole from falling into the wrong hands. Medicine ceremonies which are incomplete or performed out of context can do more harm than good and in the hands of the untrained can be downright dangerous.

Some Cherokee people see only Cherokee medicine people for mental or physical illnesses. Others prefer a combination of treatment from a medicine man and conventional modern medicine. Some Cherokees no longer believe in the powers of traditional medicine people.


Didanawisgi is the Cherokee word for medicine man. A common thread woven through all Native American remedies is the idea of “wellness” a term recently picked up by some in the modern medical professions. A state of “wellness” is described as “harmony between the mind, body and spirit.” The Cherokee word “tohi” - health - is the same as the word for peace. You’re in good health when your body is at peace. The “medicine circle” has no beginning and no end and therefore represents a concept of “harmonious unity.”

Cherokee medicine is a prevention-based system that incorporates the whole person, rather than the cure-based system that is used by most modern doctors of medicine today, which focuses on the disease. It is the belief among American Indian “doctors” that to achieve wellness we must have a strong connection to all things natural and both create and receive harmony not only within ourselves, but also in all our relationships. Once harmony is restored, illness and other health distortions simply disappear. To some, this would be a “cure.” In the Cherokee tradition, this is just good health - the way it should be.

Here the goal is to first help the patient recover - to cure the sickness rather than treat the symptoms- to help the patient find his or her balance - the harmony of our living. The ceremony performed is as important as the potion or salve made from the plants or herbs. This is what is now known as holistic healing - a healing of the complete person.

There is a legend among the Cherokee that tells of the origin of medicine. It tells how the animals and birds met in council to decide what to do about the encroachment of man upon their world and how carelessly he was treating them. One by one they listed ailments and maladies that would afflict the humans. Had they succeeded, humans would surely have disappeared by now. But nearby, listening to the council were the plants and herbs and, not being troubled by the humans, they agreed to supply a remedy for each and every one of the diseases the animals wanted to thrust upon humankind.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


I am a certified hypnotist who is interested in past life explorations using hypnosis. I became interested in hypnosis and past life exploration in 1985. I was living in Tulsa, Okla. at the time and attended a metaphysical workshop on past lives. The woman conducting the workshop talked about a woman in Colorado named Virginia Tighe who supposedly recalled a past live as a 19th-century Irishwoman by the name of Bridey Murphy.

The story goes that in 1952, Colorado businessman and amateur hypnotist Morey Bernstein put housewife Virginia Tighe of Pueblo, Colorado in a hypnotic state that sparked off startling revelations about Tighe's alleged past life as a 19th-century Irishwoman and her rebirth in the United States 59 years later. Bernstein used a technique called hypnotic age regression, during which the subject is gradually taken back to childhood. He then attempted to take Virginia one step further, before birth, and suddenly was astonished to find he was listening to Bridey Murphy.

I developed a friendship with the workshop facilitator and learned the basic technique of hypnosis. In 2006 I took a one month advance course in hypnosis and became certified.

I have used various hypnotic techniques in my healing practice. Hypnosis is a safe drug free way to break free of bad habits and overcome fears. I have helped a number of people to quit smoking (myself included) and used hypnosis for those bothered by anxiety attacks.