A Heroine's Journey
The psycho-spiritual quest that led Deanna to become a healeR
I was born at the foot of the Mission Mountains of Northwestern Montana and raised on the Confederated Flathead Salish Kootenai Reservation near the Moise Bison Range and the infamous white buffalo, Big Medicine.
This land is a very wild, out-of-the-ordinary place to grow up in.
My family faithfully attended church and I loved Catechism teachings after school. Elders in their beautiful regalia strolled past my home to church each Sunday. I remember their chanting of their ancient traditional songs from the front row pews. Their fine beaded moccasins and beaver fur-covered braids, fancy shawls and leather pouches set me back in time about a hundred years, happening just before Vatican II.
That was when the mystery and frankincense smoke filled the Mission.
Ritual, the love of mystery and the sacred seeped into my heart.
My father took this photo in 1956 at the Arlee PowWow.
Each year the Fourth of July parade included natives dressed in full regalia prancing on Indian ponies through our little town alongside ranchers and cowboys on horseback, the fire engine sporting bathing beauties and fancy decorated race cars marked the beginning of each summer. Our senses opened to the rich ancient tradition of summer gatherings with the annual pow wow tipi village springing up just a short distance from my family home. My brothers and I made our own tipi out of blankets.
I laid awake at night longing to be an Indian drumming and dancing, throwing the gambling sticks and reminiscing about the magic of a life connected so deeply to the natural world. Being a white girl I was a minority in a school of native kids and I was deeply conflicted with purpose. When I was 12 my father bought a set of encyclopedias from a traveling salesman. He gifted me his love of reading so I poured over the 26 volumes where I was introduced to a world of extraordinary people, ideas and geographical wonders. People of the land lived around the world which made me wonder why I was white and felt homeless.
My exploration of religion, spirituality, medicine and indigenous ways
was by flipping pages in the Book of Knowledge.
A longing for adventure set in at a young age.
Enrolled at the University of Montana, I was first a pre-med student, then changed my major to study to anthropology and archaeology. I learned more about humans, the body and sociology, medicine and indigenous ways of life. In hindsight, I did more fieldwork abroad than classroom work. When I finished undergrad training I began the training of life—I came to realize that to study other people from an academic perspective was not my path nor my right to do.
I became an entrepreneur, householder and mother. My teachers appeared twenty years later. Raising her children first is not an unusual way for a woman in other traditions to realize her spiritual calling.
One is often called to a spiritual path through sickness or tragedy.
A desire was kindled at a younger age, but the moment I fell 200 feet down a mountain fourteen years later, the sky seemed to open and a loud voice said, “You have work to do”. This was my calling. It was time to get serious.
After this dreams and unusual visitations by other-worldly beings haunted my nights. I recognized that the Huichol god of fire, Tatewarí, had invaded my sleep as well as the deer people. I was being called me to become a Mara’akame, a healer.
I was hurt bad from the fall. Competent healers led me to receive Rolfing as well as energy work. For ten years I explored South America and met medicine people of the Andes and Amazon of Ecuador and teachers of the Qe’ro tradition of South America. I wanted this responsibility. Wholeheartedly. I knew that my calling was to be one of those caretakers.
I was told that the responsibility of caretaking the world by the
indigenous people would soon the responsibility of the people of the west.
I first became a massage therapist and then in 1994 I apprenticed Rosita Arvigo, a healer living in Belize and of the Mayan tradition. I learned about herbal remedies and how to work with women’s bodies, their fertility and well-being. I learned the Medicine Wheel of the Ande's from Alberto Villodo, and journeyed with John Perkins to meet and experience healing from indigenous shamans and teachers of Ecuador. I studied Plant Spirit Medicine with Eliot Cowan, who took me under his wing to apprentice in the Huichol path of Mexico.
I landed on the doorstep of 90 year old don Lucio Campos Elizade, a traditional healer of the Nahua Weather Work tradition in Nepapaulco, Mexico. He said that the gods were reaching for me and that I have a needed to have a relationship with the weather beings to protect me on my other path. He said my calling was another path in which I would be sitting on many mountains .
A good relationship with weather would protect me from lightning strikes and storms as I pilgrimaged to the sacred places.
Don Lucio Campos in his milpa before greeting the weather.
He crowned me as a weather worker (a granicero) in his little consultorio in 1997. There, I spent a great deal of time with don Lucio and learned the ways of the weather shaman.
Simultaneously studying the Laws of Nature with Eliot Cowan, brought my earlier relationship with plant spirits into focus.
I found his advice to follow your heart profound, and it continues to live in me today as a key ingredient for a fulfilling life.
Don Lupe and Eliot Cowan making sacred offerings.
I discovered a deeper connection to the divine through the ancestral lineage of the Huichol people he introduced me to, including the elder Huichol Mara’akame, don Guadalupe Gonzalez Rios. He and Tatewari, Grandfather Fire, authorized me to move toward a six year apprenticeship where I was initiated as a Mara’akame twice, in 2003 and 2004, by don José Sandoval de la Cruz, a Huichol Mara’akame after don Lupe died. I graduated from five different sacred pilgrimage sites. In the meantime, I was put through a life or death test and initiation to be able to perform funerary rites.
These archetypal initiations provided a doorway to step into my healing practice and work with people from all walks of life.
From here I continue to develop my work and offer what I have learned, providing an ancient but profound perspective to my western-cultured people.