Cherokee healer says to remember and follow the traditions


Last Updated: 17 years

AUTHOR: Betty Smith

Crosslin Smith, Cherokee Traditionalist

Cherokee traditionalist Crosslin Smith explains the principles set down by the creator. “Maintaining the spiritual tradition handed down through centuries is vital to a person’s health in today’s society,” Smith said Friday. Crosslin Smith, a member of the Keetoowah Society and a healer, or medicine man, addressed a group at the 35th annual Symposium on the American Indian at Northeastern State University.

Smith, born in 1929, remembers his childhood as a happy time. When it was time to go to the ceremonial grounds, women would cook up a bounty of chickens and pork, and the children would walk barefoot through the dust.

Once there, they sat with their family and other families in their clan, while the elders talked of the past, the present, and the future. Children were expected to listen. While some didn’t, those who did learned valuable lessons and some developed into spiritual leaders such as Smith.

“Some people will listen. Only some people will have a sense of perception,” he said. “As a child I had a keen sense of perception and it’s always stayed with me.”
These are some of the things he learned.

“Somewhere in the deep, distant past they had a direct contact with the spiritual father,” Smith said.

And hence came many lessons. People in centuries past were told that encroachment by Europeans would be a negative thing, but they should not resist.
“When encroachment comes, move toward the setting sun,” they were told.
And so they did, living across the land as they went. But they were told to stop when they came to the prairie, for if they crossed it they would lose their identity and spirituality.

The Keetoowahs settled here, in northeastern Oklahoma.
Smith said people are now in the fourth world, for the earth has been destroyed three times because of evil. He said when people stray from the ancient beliefs as handed down by the creator, strife and trouble result.

He said that before people existed, the creator took saliva from his mouth and nose, spat in the ground, and used a stick to mix mud with it.

The creator then fashioned a brown man and woman from the clay, Grandfather Brown and Grandmother Brown. Next he mixed white dust with the clay, forming a man and woman so light you could see their veins through their skin. They were known as the blues. Subsequently he used yellow powder mixed with clay to form the ancestors of the Asian people, then mixed in black dust to form the ancestors of black people.

“He took a liking to these clay images and blew his breath on them. When he blew his breath on the clay he made them become a human person,” Smith said. “The art of healing by breath and by moisture comes from that far back. For me it has worked 1,000 times or more. It’s not me. It’s the spirit.”

But the healer must be humble, kind and considerate in order for the spirit to work.
Smith told of an elderly woman who had consulted him. Doctors told her she needed colon surgery. After meeting with her he told her she did not need to go under the knife. Instead, he made her some tea. He said later she felt a great pain, but then felt all right. She went to the doctor, who told her nothing was wrong with her and she no longer needed the surgery.

He said the original people were given the image and spirit of the creator. The creator told them to be positive and strong. They should have a good attitude.
“Whenever you pray or meditate, do so to your inner spirit,” Smith said. “You have his spirit in you.”

He also discussed the interconnection between humans and all other life forms. This comes through the four elements.

First he mentioned air. We breathe the same air as all creatures, including the frog and snake. Plants also thrive because of air.

“Realize your connection to all things of the past, all things of the present, all things of the future, through the air,” he said.

The connections also come through water, which should be respected and not polluted; heat, coming through sun and the fire; and the earth. Besides supplying the clay from which people sprung, the earth provides food, shelter and a home.
“Don’t think of dirt as dirty. It’s a very precious thing,” Smith said.

He said more healing could be done with dirt than with plants.

“That’s a universal spirituality. It applies to us all,” he said of the principles he had described. “The spirit never dies. It goes from one eternity to another eternity.”
People who practice these spiritual principles can overcome anxiety, post-traumatic stress and depression, he said.

People should make things right with the universe and everything in it.
“Even if you don’t know the Iraqi people, even if you don’t know people who are living in prison, even if you don’t know people who are terminally ill, spirit to spirit you can make it right,” he said.

Smith said it would be more beneficial if people would disband “their little organizations” and live by spiritual principles.

“Be humble, down-to-earth kind, and considerate,” he told his audience.


Betty Smith writes for the Talequah Daily press.

© 2007, Tahlequah Daily Press

106 W. Second Street; Tahlequah, OK 74464

(918) 456-8833