Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/12/2004 (6205 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
"They give equal support and recognition to oriental medicine that they would to western medicine," he says.
"When I witnessed that, the first thought that I had was, why can't we as first people's of our own land support traditional approaches to healing?
"I believe that we all have something to contribute when it comes to having greater understanding of what can bring wellness and happiness to life."
Courchene, 54, is a healer in Sagkeeng First Nation (Fort Alexander), about 150 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg near Pine Falls.
Through the teachings of elders from across Canada that began more than 20 years ago -- and inspired by his dreams and visions -- Courchene promotes traditional ways to health and well-being.
His knowledge has led him to be involved in ceremonies and conferences around the world, including Canada, the United States, Brazil, the Middle East, Japan, the Philippines and South Korea.
"(Healers or elders are) people that are knowledgeable in terms of traditional perspectives, traditional healing," Courchene says.
"Some are distinctive in terms of just working with herbal medicines, some will use the ceremonies. But the common approach by indigenous healers is the healing that is done is tied directly to the land because out of the land comes what is needed in order for real healing to take place."
Natural gifts of healing
One of Courchene's visions as a young man was of a village of peace, with a lodge in the shape of a turtle (a symbol for truth). Today, the Turtle Lodge at Sagkeeng, including a sweat lodge, is a place where people from across the country receive the support and mentorship of spiritual people.
"There's a movement that's happening across the country right now, particularly in the native community, where more and more people are willing to accept their natural gifts of healing," he says.
"More and more people are finding their way back to the ancient way that our people have survived and lived on the land. I really believe that this has to be encouraged."
One of the first things Courchene does when someone comes to him seeking support for their healing is to set up a detoxification program using natural herbs and medicines.
It's also important to reintroduce natural food through animals, he says.
When he was young, deer, moose, fish, wild rice and berries were important parts of Fort Alexander residents' diets.
"We need to reintroduce all of that if there's going to be any hope of defeating the sugar diabetes that is rampant in the community," Courchene says.
"What has happened, in particular in the native community, is there's a high consumption of processed foods and sugar. It's really devastated the community."
Returning to natural foods is also preventative medicine.
"The belief of our people is to eat an animal that is natural because the animals naturally consume the medicines of the land that keep them healthy and strong," Courchene says.
"When you're able to consume that animal, then you take in a part of what will help make you strong and will help develop a strong immunity system."
Fasting is also an important part of healing because it helps to detoxify and secure spiritual direction.
A lack of spiritual direction is as much a problem as a poor diet for today's indigenous people, he says.
"The individual has to have purpose and meaning in life," he says. "You can help fix an individual physically, but if they have no hope for the future and no real meaning to life, that will trigger some kind of other illness, either an emotional or mental illness."
Courchene believes there's too much emphasis on material wealth, and when that's not achieved, it leads to anxiety, depression and anger.
"When you go and see a real healer, the first thing a healer will ask you is, 'What's your dream, what's your vision of life?' " he says. "Once he's able to identify what your vision is, he begins to recognize your purpose and meaning in life.
Spiritually illiterate society
"I believe that's the biggest problem we have in the world today, that we operate without a vision that gives us real purpose. We become so materialistic that we've created a spiritual illiterate society."
A healer's spiritual approach takes into account spiritual essence, feelings and emotions, the body and the mind.
"You have to approach those four elements as being equally important in finding balance in one's life," Courchene says. "The strongest perspective that I believe we have as indigenous people is our spiritual connection."
But it's also that spiritual approach that sometimes hinders acceptance of traditional healing, he says, explaining it can be difficult to get hospitals to allow things such as smudging ceremonies for native patients.
"In this world, if you can't analyze and prove this spirituality that we're talking about, then it doesn't have validity in the scientific world," he says.
"We have a long way to go in terms of finding environments that really support the traditional approach. We need to engage in discussions with western medical officials and our healers and talk about these things."
After all, if it works in South Korea, why not here.