Throughout our readings of several Native American narratives, medicine has been highlighted in some aspect. One particular item that a few narratives featured was the Native American medicine bag, medicine pouch, or medicine bundle. In Fools Crow and Indian Lawyer specifically, the medicine pouch or medicine bundle are packs with a mysterious aura, and they held items with great healing and spiritual powers. Although both narratives explain certain aspects of the medicine bundles or pouches, knowing the exact purpose of them and what they can possibly look like or carry can be further researched. Also, the significance of medicine bundles in today’s society seems to have changed from that of the Natives in the past and it is concerning to the preservation of Native cultures.
Although medicine pouches and bundles were used by shaman and medicine men, they were also used by other natives without “healing powers”. The objects inside a Native American’s medicine bag can be for healing or personal use, but regardless, the specifics of such items are unique between each individual person wearing the pouch. Each item in a pouch was very important to whomever carried the pouch, or whomever it was passed to, and every individual to handle the pouch was expected to learn the story and importance of each item. Some common items that can be found in medicine pouches are stones, ashes from ceremony fires, roots, barks, herbs, feathers, dirt from ceremonial grounds, wood from a tree struck by lightning, etc. Medicine pouches are also worn for protection. Some examples that medicine bags may provide protection from are jealousy, enemies, negativity, illness, and bad spirits. Medicine pouches and bundles were very important to the Native people in many facets of their culture and believes.
Some examples of medicine bundles and pouches can be found below.
Medicine Bundle used by an Arikara tribal member
Blackfoot Indians Beaver Bundle
Blackfoot Medicine Bag
The troubling part of medicine bags in current society is they are sold in great numbers, which takes away from their true history and significance. While attempting to research their importance to the Native people and find more information about their origins; it was nearly impossible to sift through the thousands of websites selling medicine pouches as a fashion item, rather than the spiritual items Natives believed they were. Although in our current capitalist society money is of great importance, I hope the money gained from selling medicine pouches helps out Natives still feeling the effects of colonization. Also out of respect for all Natives past and present, hopefully individuals that purchase medicine pouches take the time to learn their significance and how important they were to Natives during the good times, and during their struggles.