by Perry Robinson
Injuries are a normal part of everyday life.Serious cuts, bruises, and broken bones are physical ailments that require medical attention—be it stitches, casts, or an operation.Once the need arises, a medicine man may accompany an individual into the mountains where an offering is left at a special juniper tree that the injured person selects.These actions and the thought behind them, illustrate man’s relationship to the earth and the powers available to assist in the healing process that reaches far beyond the mere physical knowledge found in a hospital or clinic.Both spiritual and physical healing can move a patient to rapid recovery.
An offering of nitł’iz (“sacred stones” comprised of white shell, turquoise, abalone shell, and jet) is placed at the base of a young, straight juniper tree with the words “heal me and help me to come back to you as a stronger person, having accomplished my purpose.”The offering speaks to the ground and this young tree uniting them to the patient like a brother or sister.As the tree grows, so does the person, able to withstand the heat of summer, the cold of winter, and the trials of life.In a sense, the person and tree walk together as their existence parallels their intertwined lives.This single tree—out of all those that are on the earth—has now been chosen to be a caretaker for the person who prayed at its base.The healing process works through this two-way adoption, and like a family member, an individual may return many times to pray, think, and draw upon its powers.
Just how close this relationship can become is shown in a story that Perry Robinson shared about an old man approaching death.When asked what his last wish was, he answered that he wanted to be brought to the mountains where “there was a small tree that I dealt with.”He, and those who accompanied him, found the tree that was halfway through its existence and flourishing beautifully.The old man thanked it for helping him through his life.“From this day, we’re going to depart, but I shall see you again in the spirit world in this way.So thank you for standing by me, with me on this earth.”The man finished, saying, “Now I can go,” and soon died.
After explaining how these kinds of stories are sacred, Perry explained, “This is how Navajos talked about these things.Before they started getting medicine, they had to have these prayers and songs done.After this you can have medication and it will be very effective.Doctors may subscribe physical therapy or pain killers or muscle relaxers.These are good and a person needs to abide by them.But another part is talking about what has happened and the problems that are being faced. The tree listens and knows and so as one talks about issues, the better things become.”
Juniper trees are viewed as females that heal and are gentle.They have always worked with the people as an important medicine, being the opposite of the piñon, a male tree.Junipers are patient and bend, no matter how difficult circumstances become.They also remember—a tree may have been born before an individual and lived after that person dies—but it will “know the story after we leave,” and record in their own way, the history of the people and community it is near.That is why they are also “teachers” that help us to become the type of person we should be.Once its life is through, it will have given back to the people and to the Creator.Humans can learn from the tree, that weathers difficult times and sometimes receive bruises and broken branches in its life.We should be as our companion tree and say, “I have had a lot of burdens placed on me, been hard on myself, and so I need to forgive myself, give everything back to the Creator and then walk a little lighter.That is how the tree thinks and what it stood for.”
I am Perry Robinson my clans is Edge Water born for Nakaii’dine. I am from Pinon Arizona born and raised there. I finished high school at Intermountain H.S. in Brigham City Utah in 1974 went to school in Utah State University for a year. I got inducted into military. I was in Marines for 4 years. Worked in construction, as a Boilermaker and iron worker for some years. I slowly worked my way back into schools to get licensed in counseling grandfathered in and a license to do traditional counseling- ceremony. I worked for Navajo Nation behavioral health for 25 years as a traditional practitioner. Retired last year. Started working with UNHS. Now as traditional consultant- practitioner.
Many articles in this section were adapted from WeRNative.org, a website for Native Youth by Native Youth