At the age of 18, Russell FourEagles responded to warnings of the dangerous spread of communism throughout the world by joining the U.S. Army to help protect his country. It was 1970, and this scared teenager from northwest Wisconsin found himself tens of thousands of miles away from home in the heat of Vietnam.
He did everything asked of him.
He volunteered to do welding when barrels that had held Agent Orange were cut in half and refashioned into toilets, not realizing that despite assurances from his superior that the barrels were rinsed and safe to handle, he would be tasked with healing himself from cancer numerous times after coming home from war. He volunteered to walk point as the first man in a line of soldiers moving slowly through the dense forest, having to identify booby traps, land mines and ambushes by the enemy, despite worrying every minute whether his time would be up with his next step.
Throughout his service in Vietnam, Russell listened to the wisdom given to him since the age of 5 by his Oneida grandmother, Coretta Mae Smith. Early on, she recognized that her grandson would be the next healer in a lineage going back more than 200 generations, and she taught him not only how to heal, but how to live. As Russell walked among the dead in combat, he received messages from her, and from the Creator, in his dreams.
The difference between walking in fear, and walking in love, completely changed his perspective — and saved his life. “Don’t worry about dying,” his grandmother told him in a dream, “as it will turn out however the Creator wants it.”
Russell’s experiences in war, and as a young man being trained to be a Medicine Man, are brilliantly described in his book The Making of a Healer: Teachings of My Oneida Grandmother. Step by step, the author recounted the maturation of his healing abilities and his growing confidence in channeling the Creator in helping people recover from cancer and other life-threatening conditions.
He will present a four-hour interactive workshop from 2-6 p.m. Saturday, March 26, at Spirit United Interfaith Church, 3204 Como Ave. SE, Minneapolis, sponsored by Minneapolis Theosophical Society as part of the group’s Ancient Wisdom / Ancient Mysteries series of lectures and workshops.
Russell spoke with The Edge from his home in Spooner, Wisc., about his journey and he shared practices each of us can use to stay in balance and remain healthy.
Your powerful book, The Making of a Healer, is based on lessons you learned from your grandmother. Tell us briefly about her and the role she played in your life.
Russell FourEagles: As a kid I was born to my parents who were both half Indian and we were poor. We lived out in the sticks in a little shack. When my mother got pregnant with her fifth child, there was not enough room in the house so my mom asked my grandma if she would take one of the children, and she chose me.
I lived with her until I started school — and she started my education with medicine right away, although I didn’t realize it was an education. I thought we were just having fun with leaves. It was a pretty interesting journey. She knew so much, and she had a repertoire of 1,800 herbs that she used.
In her day she would do five healings a month, and we would collect herbs 25 days a month. But I don’t do that now. I have had to cut it down to maybe 200 herbs at most that I use, because I’ve got clients every day in my healing center up here in Spooner. On average, I’ll see between 12 and 15 people.
My gram was a big, big influence in my life. She was a very peaceful, but very strong woman. She was naturally thin and she had learned her medicine from her grandmother and her grandmother learned from her grandmother before that and so on. I’m the 202nd healer in the family, but I’m the 404th generation from the first healer that we know of.
It’s been a very interesting journey, this journey of helping people.
In Western society, people think healing means going to a doctor and getting a prescription or having a procedure done. What does healing mean to you?
RF: From the Native aspect, we look at the whole picture, so to speak. It’s truly healing of the mind, body and spirit together, using the herbals to bring everything into balance. Usually what’s causing an illness are things that are out of balance in our bodies — spiritual things or emotional things or physical things — but they all work together.
In your book you cite several keys in the healing process. One is to not get in your own way. What does that mean?
RF: All healing is done through the Creator. All I can do is draw the Creator’s energy and send it to people and listen to what the Creator tells me as I’m doing healing.
Being in your own way is getting hung up on the beliefs of society. Most children can see spirits until they are about 4, 5, 6 years old and then society says, “Well, you can’t see them,” so, therefore, it goes away. It’s when we pick up in the beliefs of this Western society that we start to lose our way. We’re actually getting in our own way from letting spirit guide us.
Although, people are awakening now. There has been a big, big change in what I’ve seen over the last 10 years. When I was first started healing, most of my clients were Native people, and now it’s reversed. I see probably 20 percent Native people and 80 percent others.
My grandmother taught me that in order to let the Creator come through, you have to stay out of It’s way so it can work. That means getting your ego out of the way, getting your own beliefs out of the way, and let Spirit work.
You often say in your book that it’s not BELIEVING it’s going to work, it’s KNOWING that the Creator is working through you to help heal.
RF: Absolutely. Whenever a healer says, “Well, I don’t know if I can do that,” what they’re really saying is, “I don’t know if the Creator can do that.” Of course, that’s being in the way and He won’t do that. The best we can do is be a clear channel, get rid of the ego. Ego is the first thing that’s got to go if you’re going to get anywhere in healing. And, like I said, stay out of the Creator’s way.
Another part of healing you write about is to unburden the heart box. What is the heart box and how does it contribute to health or sickness?
RF: Well, the heart box is the physical void between the heart, the backbone, and the two lungs. But let me start further back.
Back in our history, the Creator created the cosmos, the universe and formed all of these worlds, and when they were right for life he went to each world and seeded life on them — and the web of life would expand around the different globes and the different worlds.
Way to the east of us is our elder brothers and way to the west of us is our younger brothers, and when our Earth here was ripe for seeding with plants and animals and everything His coming children would need, He seeded it. When the web of life had been established, then He came back to make the children.
I live up here just south of Lake Superior. The Creator reached up by Lake Superior and took two handfuls of red dust and piled them up. He poked his finger in to make that heart box. Now, His idea of the heart box was that it would give us a place to store hurt, pains and traumas for a day or two, and then we’re supposed to take it out and let it go — but that was before He breathed life into us and found out that once we get stuff in our heart box, we feel we have earned it and we would like to hang onto it. All of that contributes to our sickness.
So, when the Creator grabbed His first two piles of dust and made the heart box, they were red piles of dust. He reached over the White Cliffs of Dover and brought back two piles of white dust. He reached over to the Gobi Desert and brought back two piles of yellow dust. Then reached over to Africa and brought two piles of black sand — and He made all of the people, put all the heart boxes in, gave energy from each half of His body to each person, and then He breathed life into us.
You know what the first thing we did after He breathed life into us? We started whining. We needed light so we could see, and dark so we can sleep, and we need to know what is medicine, what plants are good for us, what plants are bad for us, what animals will hurt us.
And the Creator said, “Listen, you guys. You’re my children. I’ve given you everything you need to survive, but you don’t know everything. First and foremost, I’m going to give you free will. Let no one take that away from you, as I will not.”
Then He said, “I’m going to give you four medicines. I give you sage so you can smudge yourself and be pure when you talk to Me and do prayers. I give you tobacco, a sacred plant, so you can hold it up as an offering to me above your head when you are praying and then I know you have a good mind and a good heart. If you don’t hold your tobacco up, I won’t know if you’re right in the head and I might not hear you.”
The third medicine He gave us was sweetgrass. He said, “Like I said, you guys know a lot, but you don’t know everything, so when you have got a question of particular importance, light your sweetgrass and make four circles with the smoke and think your questions to me. I’ll send an angel or a good spirit to bring you the answer. But know this: I have a lot of kids. If you don’t catch the answer, c’est la vie, I’ve got bigger fish to fry.”
The last medicine He gave us was white cedar. He says, “Take and put a sprig over your doorway of the flat needle cedar and it will keep the confused spirits away.”
All the children were there — the red, the white, the black, the yellow –and they said, “But Father, there is no confusion.”
He said, “I’ve given you free will. There will be (confusion). Not all of you are going to believe in Me, but it’s okay because I believe in you.”
That’s where the heart box came from, when we were originally made. And that’s what we do. We tend to store stuff in the heart box like records. Remember the old 45s all stacked up in the juke box? On the juke box, a record would drop, the little arm would come down and it would play a record. What we do with our heart box is this: We get a heart pain or trauma, we put it in there and then we stack more stuff over the top of it so we can’t see it.
Rather than giving it to the Creator like we should, we stack it away. We are so smart as a species sometimes that we’ll take that really bad hurt and we’ll take it out and make a copy of it, and then we put it back on top so we have to bury it again. Some of the pains and traumas we have in our heart box are copied over many, many times.
After eons of nobody making it to Heaven properly, because of all the stuff that’s stored in the heart box, the Creator brought us the fire ceremony. That’s one of the things I’ll be talking about at the Theosophical Society event — that and the original medicine.
What role does the Oneida Fire Ceremony play in the healing process?
RF: From my standpoint, the fire ceremony is probably half of the healing we need to do. If everybody would do a fire ceremony and everybody would eat healthy, I could be out of a job — then I would really be happy instead of seeing 15 to 20 people a day, you know? (laughing). The fire ceremony is very important for letting go of all the hurts, pains and traumas we have got. It doesn’t do us any good to hang onto that stuff except to steal energy from our bodies, which we need to get healthy.
For the fire ceremony, the first thing we do is take a piece of paper and we write our thanks to the Creator for helping us to forgive ourselves for situations where we have not had control and got hurt — perhaps deaths in the family, having a car accident, slipping on the sidewalk, whatever it may be, because this society teaches us the blame game. We put the paper in the fire and let it burn away.
When we put stuff in our heart box, it may be cheap to put in there, but the true cost is to energy from our own bodies that is our protection from diseases. So we do our fire ceremony so we can give that stuff in our heart boxes to the Creator. That energy gets to go back and help make us healthy. It really helps in the healing process. I’ve noticed a definite correlation over the last 50 years in how the fire ceremony helps people. For a woman who has stiffness from the top of her neck down to about her bra line and between shoulder blade to shoulder blade, if she will do a fire ceremony, I don’t even have to do a healing on it. It will go away all on its own, because that’s where the body steals energy from.
If you process from the stuff in the heart box, your heart can beat and your lungs can move. If you were ever young and had a relationship break up, it seemed like your heart physically hurt. The reason that was is because the heart box is about three quarters of an inch square and then when you store a relationship breakup in there or a death in the family or a car accident or whatever it may be, the heart box expands with all of the pain you put in there. Because the backbone does not move, the filled heart box physically pushes against the heart and our lungs and we can’t catch our breath.
Have you noticed after putting things in the heart box that in a few minutes your heart comes back and your breath comes back? The reason for that is the Creator gave us the unconscious ability to steal energy from our own bodies to compress that stuff in the heart box. The heart box is the world’s first trash compactor.
Wth us guys, we don’t take energy from the same spot as women. We usually start with our shoulders and it can work up toward our neck, and when we can’t steal any more energy from there without really hurting ourselves, then we go to our low back. So, if you know anybody with a low back pain, a fire ceremony would be a great thing for them.
Share briefly about the breathing ritual you write about in your book. It seems to be a good daily practice for people.
RF: Oh, absolutely. What I do is imagine a line across the top of my head, like the line markers you see while watching football on TV. I change the line to the color purple. First, we take a deep breath from our nose. As I take a deep breath, I see that line over my head coming down like a bulldozer, pushing all the negative energy right down into Mother Earth. She has got big shoulders and she can take it. You just plant your feet on the floor, take in a breath and send it with your brain right down into the Earth. Then exhale through your mouth and the Mother Earth will transmute that negative energy and send you back positive energy. I do that for myself four breaths four times a day.
I’ll see 15 people in a day and half of them are new, so I show them how to do it, so I do a lot of that breathing every day. You can actually breathe a headache away doing that by sending it right to the Earth. I haven’t taken an aspirin probably in 30 years. It’s really such a simple thing that we can do for ourselves. People should be doing that every day. Do that and the fire ceremony, and I could be out of work.
I’ve had 900 extreme cancer clients. I’ve lost 12, which isn’t bad. I’ll go against any doctor with that. The ones who I lost had certain things in common. They would not do the herbs or the medicines or take my advice and do the fire ceremony. They wouldn’t do the breathing and I couldn’t convince them to know that the Creator could heal them. If you know the Creator can heal you, it’s really easy.
Knowing the Creator can heal you and believing your Creator can heal you are two different things. They are total opposites of each other.
In 1996, I had a cancer client at the (Veteran’s Hospital) in Minneapolis. She had 1,500 to 1,800 tumors, and the doctors told her that she had five days, and that she better find homes for her kids. She actually came to me for a crossing over ceremony to help her get out of pain, and I said, “We do have a ceremony like that, but I really want you to think about whether we should do it today.”
That was before they added onto the back of the V.A. building. There was a big mound there, and we would go up on the mound and do healing there. So I walked up that big mound with her and she handed me some tobacco and said, “Do you think the Creator could take this cancer away?”
I said, “Honey, I know he can take it away. It’s only a matter if you do.”
And she said, “Well, I believe it.”
I said, “No, it’s much more than believing. You have to know.”
She said, “I know He can take it away.” A month later she was free of cancer. She was a really strong, spiritual, black woman. She was a nice lady.
How does gratitude contribute to the healing process?
RF: We’re always thanking the Creator for helping us to forgive ourselves with situations where we have no control, situations where we had control, and thanking Him for helping us to forgive people, places, situations and things that have hurt us in our life.
Giving gratitude is one of the things we need to be doing. Every day I get up before daylight. I go out with my tobacco and I hold her up and I thank the Creator for allowing this old body to be breathing another day. It’s a handy thing. I’ve been terminal with cancer four times. I just went through my fifth bout of cancer from the Agent Orange…well, I shouldn’t say that because the V.A. tells me it’s not from Agent Orange, that it’s just bad luck getting cancer that many times.
This last time I went from 200 pounds down to 95 at the V.A. in Minneapolis and they sent me home to die because it had spread into my lungs. It was in my throat and my lymph nodes and all over. The main thing I found is that every day on the green side of the grass, it’s a pretty dang good day — and that’s all due to the gratitude.
You spend about 20 pages or more of your book taking us back to your experiences as a soldier in Vietnam, where you wondered why the Creator sent you there. What did you learn from that experience?
RF: One of the things I learned, as a healer, is that I had to get comfortable with death. If you’re not comfortable with death and somebody comes to you and says, “I’ve got five days left,” you will panic and freak out and not be able to help them to the best of your ability. But if you’re comfortable with death, then, we’re going to try.
It’s like a first time when I first walked point in Vietnam, and my grandmother came to me in my sleep that first night and asked me how I was doing. And, I said, “Well, there are bullets and bombs and there’s real stuff here.”
She said to me, “Well, Russell, who’s in charge of how long you live?”
And I said, “Well, the Creator is.”
And she said, “Well, let’s say next Thursday, a week from today, at 3:00 in the afternoon the second hand hits twelve and you’re going to spiritland.”
And, I said, “Yeah.”
And she said, “Are you going to spend the next seven days watching that sand trickle through the hourglass or are you going to enjoy the last seven days you’ve got?”
And I said, “Well, jeez, Gram, I’d enjoy life the seven days I have. Am I going to die, Gram?”
She said, “How would I know that? The Creator only knows that.”
You write about not walking in fear, and I think we can apply that to our everyday lives, as well.
RF: Absolutely! Again it’s knowing that the Creator is going to take care of you. Do you say, “Well, God, am I going to have enough clients to make the house payment?” Or do you say, “We’re going to make the house payment.” End of story. And, that’s the difference. If more people would walk in love, I could have a lot fewer clients, and that would be a really great thing for me. I have 52,000 clients and I’m getting old and tired.
At the end of the book you talk about your apprentices. How are they doing?
RF: They’re doing good. They are just finishing the new healing center that we built up here in Spooner. One of my apprentices, who was a carpenter before he became an apprentice, is working on the place right now and he’s doing really well. He’s got his own clients and he travels around, going out west and all over the place doing healing — and that’s exactly why I trained him.
There’s not nearly enough healers out here, and the way Western medicine is going, it’s getting so people can’t even afford to go to the doctor. What I see a lot of in the healing center are young, single moms who don’t have insurance or insured but they can’t pay the deductible.
I’m more than happy to see them. There should be an energy exchange with the healing, but it’s not about money. I had a young couple come yesterday. They had no money. They barely had enough gas to get here. He had hurt his back and she, I believe, has Lyme disease, and all they had was a rock. I said, “It’s enough. Don’t worry about it. Healing is not about money. It’s about helping people.”
Now, my Gram, she mostly bartered with people. She started healing in 1905 and healed until 1986. And she had more wisdom than anybody I ever knew.
We are seeing more violent and deadly storms, droughts, floods, and other Earth changes that your grandmother talked about decades ago. Do you think that we have gone past the point of no return or do you remain hopeful that we can restore harmony and balance on the planet?
RF: I’m probably a perpetual optimist. I still believe we can do it if we can get people to wake up. The messages are out there for people, but they’ve got to actually do a little work themselves and look for them.
I tell people every day that we have to take care of Mother Earth, because she is everything. If Mother Earth dies, guess what? We don’t have a home anymore. We have to start eating better, taking better care of Mother Earth, and quit wasting food.
What’s sad is that our government leaders don’t make our children the top priority.
RF: My grandmother taught me that we’ve got to take care of the Earth in such a way that seven generations behind me will have it better than I do, but it’s not happening.
That’s what we used to do in this county. When Columbus arrived there were 178 million Native Americans here. Guess how much pollution? Zero. And now we’ve much more pollution, and it’s terrible.
If you could share a message with every single person right now, all at the same time, what would you tell us?
RF: Walk in love. Everything is going to be perfect. We still have to do our work. It’s better to do it when you’re walking in love than walking in fear. Fear holds us back. Love makes us grow. All things are possible through the Creator.
For more information on Russell FourEagles, please visit www.soaringeagleswellness.com.