When people and animals first lived on the earth, they greeted each other and spoke together often.
But when people began to kill animals for food, the animals grew angry. The bears gathered together to discuss the problem.
Many of them wanted to make war on humans. Others disagreed, arguing that people had sharp knives and bows and arrows.
While the bears discussed the problem among themselves, the deer also had a meeting. Being peaceful creatures, the deer rejected violence and decided to use a magic curse instead.
From then on, if a hunter did not pray before killing a deer, he would be struck down with disease. The fish and reptiles held their own gathering. They plotted to haunt people who killed them with horrible dreams of serpents.
The birds and insects organized together and thought of diseases to spread among people.
While the animals plotted their revenge, the plants listened with growing alarm. It didn’t seem fair that humans be cursed for killing animals in order to eat, especially since animals killed each other for food every day.
Because plants cover the earth, they were able to hear each animal’s plan, and they resolved to become remedies for the maladies caused by animals.
From then on, people used plants to heal their diseases and soothe their injuries.
A photograph, taken before 1938, shows three Medicine Men from the Blackfeet tribe: Spotted Eagle, Chief Elk, and Bull Child, participating in the Sun Dance ritual. As “weather dancers,” they blow their eagle wing bone whistles to ensure good weather during the ceremony.
The Indians used bark from a willow tree to cure headaches. An active ingredient in willow bark, salicylic acid, is what makes aspirin work.