LIN`GIT NAA.GU DAA`T AT
CONCERNING TLINGIT MEDICINE
by Emma Williams
1 I really dont know too much
(about) what we call devils club.
First the thorns are scraped off.
(Then) the bark is scraped off.
5 The bark is used for medicine.
It is boiled in a lot of water.
(The liquid) turns red when it is done cooking.
They set it off the fire.
They strain it through cloth.
10 Then they use it,
it was told to me:
it is good for arthritis;
and it purifies the blood;
and it helps with heart ailments,
15 they say.
There is also
something which is mixed with it,
it grows on cliffs,
20 or else it grows on small trees which we call alders,
The roots are gathered as well.
That also is mixed with it,
what we call shaach'.
25 Now that is good for heart ailments.
When there were cold epidemics, (lit., when colds came among people)
my husbands father
made some for us.
Long ago, 1918,
30 there was a flu epidemic. (lit., the disease called influenza came
And he made for us,
devils club, shaach',
crabapple tree bark, and the outer bark of fir,
the kind that has pitch on it.
35 That is the mixture he made for us. (lit., thus he made them mixed
together for us)
We used to drink it;
we made tea out of it.
And we didnt get sick
when it attacked us,
40 the killer disease.
(All) that winter they faithfully gave it to us. (lit., well)
eulachon grease, (lit., Nass River oil, i.e. "hooligan grease")
45 we took a tablespoonful (lit., we repeatedly spooned)
once a day.
Eulachon grease and devils club
they boiled together.
Now my husbands mother said to us,
50 "Whenever you are thirsty for water,
drink half a glass."
After that we did not get sick,
since we were using that;
my husbands father
55 was always coming. (lit., going along)
They always made fresh (batches);
after we drank what he boiled,
they made it into medicine for us,
when there was an epidemic.
60 That eulachon grease
was real (medicine);
no matter what kind of epidemic there was,
it cured one if one used it,
65 This is what I know of it;
my husbands mother,
(whose) name was Kinle (lit., her name was called Kinle)
she is the one who used to tell me;
thats why I know it.
70 And this too,
elderberries, elderberry roots,
when my mother got sick,
they made some for her.
The elderberry roots were dug up,
75 and after they were washed,
they pounded them,
and then they boiled them. (lit., here
, i.e. at this point)
They gave it to my mother.
Now (it was) the disease called pneumonia
80 that my mother came down with; (lit., it came to my mother)
she caught it. (lit., she found it)
And they made for her
a decoction of elderberry roots.
It was very strong.
85 When we were living at camp,
she took sick.
And a woman made for her
(a decoction of) elderberry roots.
I was told that red alder,
90 what is called red alder,
its bark is also medicine.
It is boiled;
the liquid becomes quite red.
After it has been strained, (lit.,
95 it is drunk out of (a glass) as medicine. (lit., at that time)
And I saw,
when my father had an eye disease,
he was told to do it,
(and) he would wash his eyes with it,
100 a decoction of red alder. (lit., the liquid of
He took handsful of it,
(and) repeatedly opened his eyes in it,
while holding it cupped in his hands to his eyes.
Also, (to) a man who has a cough
105 red alder is useful.
And mixed with it is
a (plant) they gather from the swamps.
It looks like hemlock branches,
but it is short;
110 it grows in the swamps.
They mix that with it as well
when a person has a cough,
or when his body is weak
they use it for that,
115 that medicine.
This is what I was told.
And my elder sister told me,
a man was healed
120 in English they call it an ulcer (lit., white people call
was found in his stomach.
He couldnt eat.
So his mother-in-law made him
that medicine, red alder,
125 and those things that look like hemlock branches
that grow in swamps.
He was losing weight (lit., drying out)
and his mother-in-law made that medicine for him.
He drank it
130 three times a day,
half a glass.
Due to that he was cured.
It cured his stomach;
it cured that ulcer. (lit., that which is called an "ulcer")
135 Now his body is large
because he has gotten heavy. (lit., from the effect of fatness)
Thereupon he believed
that the medicine really works. (lit., is true)
this is what I know,
140 a little bit about
and that (thing) that grows in swamps
it looks like hemlock branches;
it has a name,
145 but I dont know it.
Or (else) what we call Hudson's Bay tea.
There are two kinds,
those whose leaves stick up, (lit.,
having narrow little leaves, (lit., their small leaves are narrow)
150 they mix that in with it too,
not the ones whose leaves point downward,
but the ones whose leaves point up,
they put them in with it too.
That is what cured the mans stomach ailment
155 (which) doctors told him was an ulcer;
He couldnt eat.
When he drank that medicine,
he started walking again,
and he started eating again;
160 it cured him.
that medicine, a Tlingit medicine,
Right now hes still walking around;
165 he always uses Tlingit medicine.
That is as much as I know
about that medicine.
Another one too,
170 when my husband was sick
we didnt know what was ailing him
he was constantly in bed.
The medicine that the doctor gave him
Did not help him.
175 So my aunt told my elder sister and me to come with her, (lit.,
my mothers sister
asked us to come along, (me) with my elder sister)
"Lets go to the swamp.
Well look for those medicines;
there are three kinds.
When we find some,
180 if he is destined to get well (lit., how he will get well)
there will be some waiting for us."
We went with her to the swamp.
We went a long ways. (lit., the place we arrived at was distant)
There she told us
185 what those leaves look like,
and the (plant) we call "deers barbecue-sticks,"
the companion to it
that one has two (stalks) growing out (from the root),
and deer cabbage also.
190 That one also has two (leaves) side by side;
its leaves are like little eggs.
Those are rare.
And also those,
195 we searched for them too;
But she instructed us
(as to) what we were looking for.
I came across some
200 of what we call "deers barbecue-sticks."
Thats how it is,
it has two (stalks) growing up (from the root),
it is used for medicine.
But the (plant) which we call deer cabbage,
205 my aunt came across it
She was grateful,
(and) simply said, "Thank you.
Ive found some."
And my elder sister Daageis yelled out,
210 "Ive found some water-lilies."
(my aunt) said,
"dig out the roots.
Give it a try.
215 Its hard,
Dig around them."
So my elder sister dug around them.
220 Well, she finally made it.
The roots grow quite long. (lit., to a distance)
So she told her, "I made it!"
My aunt yelled out,
"(Now) look at the roots.
225 Theyre no good if theyre rotten."
"No," my elder sister said,
"theyre all good."
In English she said,
"Thank you, God, that we found this medicine."
230 We came together.
Thus, they go together, (lit., they are a matching set,
companions to one another)
those three kinds (of plants).
So we went (back) down with them. (lit., down toward the beach)
She took them home.
235 At home she boiled them.
After two days,
she came here with them
I still live here in the (same) house
she brought them to us. (lit., there, ref. to here)
240 She had the three kinds in jars.
She said to us,
"Half a glass,
three times a day,
let him drink it.
245 Dont miss a time.
Before he has drunk all these three jars (full),
youll see him get up. (lit., youll see it, hell get
He will walk around,
And hell eat."
250 And thats how it was.
After he drank all those three jars,
he went right out to work on his boat. (lit., about his boat)
He was cured;
he began to eat right away.
255 Thats as much as I know about
these three kinds of (plants) that I named,
and these (plants) that look like "deer barbecue-sticks"
260 (which have) two (stalks) growing out (from the roots),
they go together.
This is how they boil (these) three together.
That is what I know about it.
265 is medicine for wounds,
where there is a cut,
they prepare some for it.
I also saw
how my husband (cut) his foot
270 when he was young -- (or, when he was a child)
they used to live in camps long ago,
they didnt live in the villages -- (i.e., in the spring and summer)
he cut his foot with an ax.
My uncles wife knew (about) that medicine, (i.e., mothers
275 tree pitch
and small herbs called "seals tongue"
where streams flow
it clings to the moss on the bank
along with (the pitch)
280 those small herbs called "seals tongue,"
and here (also) hemlock,
they prepared them,
285 and what we call hemlock branch needles.
Those four things,
they washed the dirt off them,
off the leaves.
290 They mashed up those three (herbs) (using a stone).
At this point they stirred them together with pitch.
His uncle was taking care of it.
Where his foot was cut,
where he chopped it,
295 when he washed it carefully,
at this point he held it together with his hands,
forcefully, so. (lit., with strength)
Then, they put it on a piece of (lit., here)
300 the pitch and the herbs,
right on top of it,
they bound it with them,
(and) just left it alone.
305 As soon as it started coming loose,
they would change the bandage again,
and after that,
the tree pitch.
It was there,
310 the tree pitch,
on the piece (of hide);
they would bind it on;
they would tie it over it with cloth.
That is what healed his foot,
315 when we were already living together. (i.e., married)
When the doctor was examining him he saw it;
He was amaxed,
(and) asked him,
"What did you folks use?"
320 He told him, "Tree pitch
healed my foot,
a large wound."
That is what I know of this,
The pitch and the herbs, in combination with each other, (lit., being
the way they are used.