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1981 North Slope Elders Conference, Medicinal Plant Session, Part 2

This is a continuation of the 1981 North Slope Elders Conference, Medicinal Plant Session, August 12, 1981 in Barrow (now Utqiaġvik), Alaska. In this second part of a two part recording, Eunice Leavitt, Wier Negovanna, Herman Rexford, Amos Morry, and Nannie Kagak talk about the use of plants for medicine, and about traditional healing practices, such as the use of beluga and walrus oil, seal intestine, and the stomach contents of caribou. Donna Neakok Miller facilitates the session. This recording has the English translators speaking while the Iñupiaq speakers are faint in the background. There is audio bleeding in from a different recording, which at times is distracting.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 87-32-15_PT. 5_SIDE B

Project: Ethnobotany, Ethnomedicine and Traditional Healing
Date of Interview: Aug 12, 1981
Narrator(s): 1981 North Slope Elders Conference, Medicinal Plant Session
Transcriber: Karen Brewster
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Ethnobotany Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Kuskokwim Campus, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Alternate Transcripts
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Benefits of medicinal plants, and use of walrus oil

Eating lichens during starvation times

Using bacon to treat boils, fine sand as a heating pad, and bearded seal intestine for constipation

Treating boils with willow leaves

Using clams or berries to treat eye infections

Benefits of sunshine in treating illness

Use of beluga oil and coal oil for wounds and earaches

Use of bacon, and use of caribou stomach contents

Using massage to treat the liver

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(Continued from Side A)

ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF EUNICE LEAVITT SPEAKING IÑUPIAQ IN BACKGROUND: -- abdomen. These -- these medicinal herbs are really good. They're very helpful.

And also the walrus oil, they are really helpful. Especially when my husband was alive. We use that for drinking. One teaspoon.

And -- and if God wanted that person, they do take them away whether you put -- and give them aid in all the medicine that you can give. But you don't give up. You don't give up.

Because we do not live by ourself. My name is Eunice Leavitt.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF WIER NEGOVANNA SPEAKING IÑUPIAQ IN BACKGROUND: I forgot something, and I would like to say it. The land plants are very helpful and we still don't know some of them.

And the one that I would like to talk about I know of, especially to the young people.

Sometimes we -- we reach hardship, and I was a reindeer herder then. What can I use for livelihood? When I was -- Especially if I go through hardships.

Then I start eating the parts of caribou. I would eat parts of the stomach from the caribou.

The caribou eats these lichens. Boy, they're really good. They're -- they're -- they're tasty, and they're very soft to eat. And if I couldn't swallow, then I would look for these type of things.

People have already tried them and some people may have not tried them, but they're really good. They're very tasty and they're very soft and they're very chewable.

And this -- that's what I wanted to add. The lichens. We're talking about lichens.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF HERMAN REXFORD SPEAKING IÑUPIAQ IN BACKGROUND: I just remembered something. My name is Herman Rexford and I would like to say something. They were talking about boils. Seeps. You know, boils on the skin.

When I was -- Jack Smith used to live in Beechey Point. He started treating me, because I had a boil on my back. He used the skin of the bacon. They didn't have sliced bacon at that time. He put it on my boil and it really hurt.

And so we treated it like that and finally it came out. The oil of the bacon is good for the boil.

Another thing, aiyaraq (sp?), fine sand. If you don't have anything -- You -- you put it on top of the stove and then -- I don't know what, excuse me. It was a heating pad. You can use it as a heating pad types of --

And then another thing that you can use for -- for constipation is bearded seal's intestine. Bearded seal's intestine, you use that as a -- for constipation purposes. My name is Herman.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF AMOS MORRY SPEAKING IÑUPIAQ IN BACKGROUND: My -- my father was older and even though I'm here right now, I have heard and I will talk about the things that haven't been discussed.

I have used these -- I have experienced oil -- boils in my skin. A long time ago, if a boil couldn't pop, they used these willow leaves. They would cover the boils with those willow leaves.

They would just clean it out, and then put some old covers on the boil. And when it happens, then the boil pops and seeps out.

Also, I have heard of this from my father. If you have a bad eye. Eye infection. If a person cannot see very well and their eyes turn red, they use clams.

And then, they use the sharp (shell) and then they cut the little red lines from the eye. They used to treat their eyes in this way a long time ago.

Also, on another subject on the eyes, they also use berries that grow from the land. You gather the berries and then you smash 'em up and use the juice of the berries to put it on the eyes. And then cover it with the cloth. And that's treated for eye infections.

These are the things that I have heard. And I have seen where they treated the eyes. Paneak's father used it.

And my father also used to say, his name was Pialook (sp?). His friend who was a young lad, Pialook (sp?) and Ahvakan would -- Pialook (sp?) was almost dying and when they couldn't -- the people couldn't treat him anymore, he was an older man and he said, "A person who cannot be treated again in any way, then they should take him out to the sun and just show out the pain." To the sun. Towards the sun. The sun can work wonders, because of the heat.

These are things that I have heard. They're not -- they're very -- sometimes you wonder about the truth of these, but I have heard of these and I have tried some of 'em. And they do work. My name is Amos Morry.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF NANNIE KAGAK SPEAKING IÑUPIAQ IN BACKGROUND: My name is Nannie Kagak, and I would like to say something on medicinal herbs. I would like to tell you what I know.

If you use a -- a beluga oil, you put a little bit of coal oil and put it on the side of the body, and then cover it with cloth and it heals very fast if you treat the wound in this matter. You -- you split coal oil and beluga oil half and half.

I still use them presently on my nephews whenever they cannot be treated for earaches. Then they -- then she uses that treatment on their earaches. And it still works, because I do have a lot of nephews that I can use my medicine on.

Also, I remembered bacon. You use the skin of the bacon on the wound and then cover it for several days. Leave it like that, and then take it off and -- and it has boiled out. The wound has surfaced.

My grandmother -- my mother used to talk about niġukkaq (sp?). The stomach contents of the caribou. You also use that. And you use it on the tre -- wound for several days and then take it off after several days and it heals by itself using the contents of the stomach of the caribou.

I was also included in treating these wounds. And if we have to support any of these, then we will support this.

My -- presently a person's tiŋŋuq (sp?). Liver. If you treat it in a little way, you don't go away. You have to massage it.

And my nephew has had problems with that area, and so I massage it and now he doesn't have to go see the doctor. I have nothing more else to say.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF DONNA NEAKOK MILLER (FACILITATOR) SPEAKING IÑUPIAQ IN BACKGROUND: And it's lunchtime. This afternoon the women will be going to senior center and the men will remain here. Okay? See you.