Medicine Man

  In late 1975 while a work crew was engaged in the construction of a drainage ditch behind our new hospital, a bulldozer unearthed a human skull as well as other skeletal remains.  Upon discovery, the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment was notified and the unearthed skeletal remains were examined by Corporal Bruce Bishop and Dr. K.C. Miller, who was Elk Point's coroner at the time.  Upon examination of the site, it was noted that the skull was near the surface and the remaining charred bones were buried about a foot and a half below the surface.  A number of  artifacts were discovered lying beneath the skull.  They were wrapped in many pieces of birch bark.  In order that the construction could continue the skeleton, the many artifacts found as well as a large quantity of soil surrounding the remains were removed to the RCMP barracks in Elk Point. They were then forwarded to the Archaeology Survey of Alberta which turned them over to the University of Alberta for cleaning and study.

        The many artifacts found with the remains included a stone pipe, a number of brass tinkling cones commonly found on leather garments, a brass awl, one iron arrowhead, two large glass beads, a number of eagle claws, a quantity of red ochre, a fibula awl, two brass buttons and some powdered tobacco.

        Other very unusual artifacts also found with the remains were: a sandhill crane bill, a bone tube made from the ulna of a trumpeter swan, a-wooden vermilion container showing evidence of  a screw-cap, fragments of color pigment, an awl made from the fibula of a lynx, sewn birch bark, a birch bark paint applicator, a wooden vermilion applicator, as well as other perishable material.  These unusual artifacts were all used for curing purposes and were commonly carried by a Medicine Man.

        The results of the study by the University of Alberta as well as the Archaeology Survey of Alberta, indicated the remains were those of a male, five feet ten inches tall, between forty and fifty -years of age and presumed to be a North American Indian.  It was also assumed that he was a Medicine Man who died about 1800.  The many artifacts found at the burial site compared to artifacts found at both Fort George and. Buckingham House, two fur trading forts located five miles south east of present day Elk Point.  The similarity of the artifacts found at both the burial site as well as those found at these two fur trading posts indicate that this Medicine Man purchased these artifacts there during one of his visits.  This also helped to establish the time of his death which was set at 1800.

        The early Medicine Man or Shaman as he is often referred to, wandered over a large area and visited many Indian camps during the early years. He helped to care for the sick as well as to perform other unusual duties among his followers.  In some ways, he was compared to our medical doctors. Generally, he was a highly respected member of the various Indian tribes. Although his practice was far different that what is .used today, his people believed in his powers.  To further describe the Medicine Man, the following was taken from the Book of Knowledge; "The Medicine Man was a combination of a magician and doctor.  The Indian tribes believed that with his magic art and his incantations he could heal the sick, cast out evil spirits and control the weather.  His medicine bag contained many herbs and roots and charms known only to himself.  He practiced his sorcery in a special tent of small size, in which he invoked spirits of all sorts, using not only the contents of his medicine bag, but drums and rattles, while he groaned and chanted his weird songs."   It was assumed that the early Medicine Man was able to exercise strong supernatural powers.  His followers believed he could foretell the future, cast love spells, find lost animals and bring about good weather.

        There is very little doubt that the early Medicine Man was a highly regarded member of the many different Indian tribes scattered throughout all of Canada and the United States.