How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?
I was born in Indiantown Township, the last Indian reservation in Illinois. My wife and I lived in Oklahoma and Texas before moving to Brooksville just over 12 years ago.
Who are the members of your family?
First, all American Indians are my family. I am an American Indian with DNA proof, but I make no claim to any tribe.
My wife, Carol, "Tully" (which means little chestnut), and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary on April 1. We actually have two anniversaries. We were first married in December 1959, but the government lost our marriage license and didn't recognize it. We were remarried on April 1, 1960.
Funny story about that: Everyone thought we were pulling an April Fool's Day prank when we told them we needed to get remarried. The minister didn't even show up to the church. When we called, he told us he thought we were joking.
We have two children. Our son Billy Chuck is married to Cheryl. They have one daughter, Destiny, and a grandson, Buck. Billy and Cheryl live in Brandon and own the House of Beads. Billy's Indian name is Yosemite, which means bear.
Our daughter, Dawnwea, is married to Joey. Dawnwea got her name because she was born in the morning and was a girl. Wea means woman.
Tell us about your career.
I'm a disabled veteran. I served in the Army Special Forces. Today, I help sick people by making up natural medicines for them. I grow everything I use because everything is given to us in nature. Everything I use is listed in the homeopathy regulator book approved by the government. Not everything that helps us feel better is made in a laboratory.
When I was born, my hair had no color. It was totally white. The elder women told my parents that I would be special. From the age of 4, I began helping the elders. They would send me to get a piece of this, or some of that (roots, bark, plant leaves, etc). What they were doing, without my knowledge, was teaching me medicine. When I returned with the items, they would soak them in hot water or grind them up. They would make something to help someone in need. I learned by watching and helping.
By the time I was 12, I knew, from looking at someone who was sick, what to gather and do to make them feel better. I'd say, chew this plant, or eat this leaf or drink this tea. I have been able to see auras since I was a kid — well we all actually can if we practice. When I look at someone's aura, I see a mist-like fog surrounding them and a hole where the hurt or pain is. I know what to treat.
I've been helping people now for 55 years. The documentary Secrets of a Medicine Man was based on my life. The film earned multiple awards, including the 2009 Communicator Gold Award of Excellence.
What other kinds of activities are you involved in?
You can't make a living just helping people like this. Well I can't. That's because I never charge for my help, only for the things I have to purchase, like some herbs and ingredients I have to order from around the country. I'm not a doctor, but I have helped a lot of people.
To supplement my income, I do bead work (jewelry), make wood carvings and paint feathers. My wife and I raise prize Appaloosa horses, and we show them. At the shows, she deals with the horses, and I sell my wares. She is also very artistic and makes jeweled halters for horses, makes clothes and does patchwork, which she learned from my mother.
I also do hydroponics and organic gardening. I've taught people how to grow plants in empty, clean cans. And I used to do powwows, but too many people think they can do them better, so I don't do that any more.
I have written several children's stories, and I like to teach healthy life habits to anyone who will listen to my advice.
What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?
I like to fish, and hunt for hogs and deer. I love the solitude of being away from everyone and everything. You have no stress when you're out there. I also love to ride my motorcycle.
What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?
Parents should raise their children to be interested in doing things for their hometown and people living in their hometown.
Remember when you were a kid and your parents told you, after school, go help out the older neighbor with some chores, like cleaning the horse stalls, feeding the animals, helping in the garden or yard work? While helping, you'd listen as they talked with you, teaching you important things, passing on their knowledge. We need to create children who are interested in learning about our natural resources, which are abundant in Hernando.
Tell us something about yourself most people don't know.
I'm a certified goldsmith, whitesmith, diamond cutter, art teacher, potter and, best of all, a certified medicine man, and not one of those powwow snake oil kind of people. I'm still learning. A great friend once told me "never stop learning," and I hope I never do.
Know someone who would make a good Hernando Neighbors profile? Contact Jean Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1438.