Footprints in Stone
Carrier Culture

Duyunne: Medicine People

by Laura Boyd

Duyunne are individuals who have healing powers. Both men and women can possess these healing powers. It is said that the healing of oneself is as important as a duyun’s healing. A person knows if his or her spirit is sick. It’s not the same kind of sickness as the common cold or flu. Native people believe that a sickness is brought on by a person’s own carelessness. In the olden days most of the time a person would get seriously ill by scaring a duyun. The spirit (butsen) of the medicine person would enter the person who scared him or her. Sometimes it would mean death! It would really depend on how powerful the medicine person was.

There are two types of duyunne. One is called nelhjun (he who sings with us), and the other is known as nek’ununih (he who draws the bad spirits out). When the time comes for a nelhjun to heal someone, he uses his spirit song. This could be either an animal spirit or a song that was passed on to him by another person who is duyun. Sometime he sings for four days if the person is really sick. Nelhjun will then ask nek’ununih to assist with the healing because the bad spirit would then be too strong for him to exorcise by himself. The nek’ununih is the person who does the actual touching of the sick person. He has the power to exorcise the bad spirit out of the sick person. He then lets it go towards a graveyard, or to a big animal such as a horse, or back to where it came from. Many medicine people would sometimes talk about their experiences after a healing and sometimes tell the relatives what possessed the sick person. Duyunne also are experts in medicinal herbs and usually recommend that the cured person use an herbal concoction in order to build his or her strength and get back on their feet again. Not all medicine is from plants, some are from animals.

Duyunne are very feared and respected. People do not move quickly when in the presence of these special people. The duyunne believe that insects, reptiles and animals can also take possession of a person’s mind and body, thus making them miserable or seriously ill.

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