An Interview with Fawn Journeyhawk: Native Elder, Healer, Visionary, Storyteller, Craftsperson, & Wisdom-Keeper

She won’t let you snap a photo of her. She doesn’t like talking about herself. But this Native American wisdom-keeper has a lot to say.

By Ronald L. Boyer


Photo courtesy of Carly Turner

In the winter of 2009, I moved from Hollywood to Ashland, Oregon, at the request of a friend, a Mayan shaman and “Tata.” During my residence there, I had the rare fortune of participating in ritual ceremonies with shamans and Indian Doctors representing many indigenous tribes, including the Maya, Aztec-Toltecs, Blackfeet, and Mohawks, as well as Debassah Guyot, spiritual leader of the 26-million member Oromo tribal nation of northeast Africa. One day during the harvest season of 2010, my old friend and colleague, Dr. Stanley Krippner, a renowned international authority on shamanism and spiritual healers,1 suggested that I introduce myself to Fawn Journeyhawk, reputedly one of the most gifted natural healers he had ever encountered in more than five decades as a researcher. Fawn had also recently moved to Ashland, and Stan had a hidden agenda: He had been sending researchers to study Fawn for decades, but for some reason—she would say her energy field—all attempts at video or audio recordings failed when the often very expensive recording equipment spontaneously malfunctioned or self-destructed, the rare ethnographic interviews lost forever.2

My first meeting with Fawn in Ashland was unforgettable for several reasons.

I drove to a quiet neighborhood and parked outside the humble older ranch-style home where Fawn was staying. I entered bearing traditional gifts of tobacco plus newly picked Indian corn and squash grown by the Red Earth Descendants on the old farm at the edge of town where I was living. As I entered, Fawn invited me to sit with her in the shade of the open patio overlooking her backyard. Once seated, I looked up and immediately noticed, lying down a few yards away, a buck mule deer with a large rack, munching flowers and calmly observing us across the lawn. “He jumped the fence with a broken leg, probably hit by a car,” Fawn told me matter-of-factly, “so I guess he needs to stay here for some healing.” Quite a first impression, I must admit.

Photo courtesy Carly Turner

Photo courtesy Carly Turner

Then there was the presence, inside the adjoining rooms, of Fawn’s friends and Medicine Helpers, a pair of female shaman elders, one from a North American tribe, the other a Hawaiian Kahuna. Fawn fondly refers to them as members of her “Alpha pack.” Later, I spoke at length with them about the initiatory rituals and ceremonies I had been attending that summer, and shared some of my experiences while passing around some talismans and Medicine objects for examination. These wise elders nodded warmly, asked pertinent questions, blessed the objects, and offered knowing comments and encouragement. In short, they fully understood, from inside out, the other world I had been participating in that summer. As we spoke, I thought of Agnes Whistling Elk, the Cree “Medicine Woman” in Lynn Andrews’ 80s bestseller of the same name.

Finally, there is Fawn herself, a diminutive “breed” of mixed European and native Mandan (Crow) and Shawnee ancestry with long black, slightly graying hair and an easy-going yet darkly humorous personality that lets you know she’s been around the block a time or two. Fawn is not only wise, but street-wise. An elder in her 70’s, Fawn is still slim and attractive and struck me at the time as an aging spitfire, full of spunk and absolutely fearless. Her quiet intensity and warm, welcoming energy—which at once set me at ease—is coupled with a tough demeanor, seasoned by years growing up on reservations and countless adventures in the wilderness and on the road, that says at once, “I can see right through you so don’t try any bullshit.” But Fawn’s toughness is only a thin shell veiling her warm and deeply caring heart, the compassionate heart of a healer. A high-level shaman of the Mandan and Shawnee tribes, Fawn is profoundly humble about her gifts. She does not consider herself a healer, but rather an instrument, someone with the ability to connect others to what she calls the “Higher Powers of Healing.” She estimates a 90% success rate curing chronic and terminal disorders, including some of the least treatable conditions. She refers with a shrug to the 10% she cannot help, “The spirits need their share.”  

Growing up on various reservations, Fawn studied traditional medicine with her mentor, the tribal Indian Doctor, Frank Chilcote. As a young female Indian Doctor coming of age in the Viet Nam Era, Fawn became a celebrated healer among Hippies and other New Age celebrants, and throngs of both native and non-native patients from all over the Americas sought her out for healings, often as the healer of last resort. Eventually, she traded the life of a celebrity native “rock star” healer for a simple and austere life of reflection and solitude, sometimes living long periods alone in broken down trailers in the wilderness, where her only companions—except her pet cats and dogs—were coyotes, bears, cougars, snakes, deer and wolves. In the wilderness, Fawn claims she was summoned by her ancestral spirits for four consecutive years, on a nightly basis, to study under their tutelage. According to Fawn, these spirits helped her better understand her innate powers, including abilities as a seer, and prepared her to meet with future threats to humanity, like radioactive wastes emitted from the nuclear accident at Fukushima. “The spirits knew,” she says, “that new disorders would require a deeper understanding than traditional ceremonies offered.”

Photo courtesy of Carly Turner

Another of Fawn’s abilities is apparently a unique gift for healing PTSD and various physical ailments suffered by war veterans. Fawn sits in her “brother’s shadow in both the Hunter’s and Warrior’s lodge, not as a member, but as an Indian Doctor of mental and physical war wounds and trauma.” In addition to gifts as a healer and seer, Fawn is widely known as a skilled native artist and craftsperson, teaching women’s skills (basket making, beading, leather crafts) and native crafts (drum making, regalia crafting). Yet another of her traditional arts is storytelling in the oral tradition of indigenous wisdom-keepers around the world, only recently (and somewhat reluctantly) recorded in textual narratives thanks to her Medicine Helpers, with whom she has practiced her healing arts across the United States, as well as in Canada, Denmark, Germany, and Iceland.

Fawn currently resides in Arizona with her niece Carly, a Medicine Helper to whom I am deeply indebted for her assistance in preparing this piece for Coreopsis. Fawn plans to relocate next spring to some land where she can raise a tipi and begin holding Teaching Way Circles for healers desiring to raise their power-level to meet the demands of our post-modern world’s increasingly complex and species-threatening challenges.

While this article featuring Fawn as a “Profiled Artist” emphasizes her gifts as a healer, seer, and wisdom-keeper-artist, she offers this cautionary note: “Everyone should focus on my work, not on me as a person.” She remains available to all who seek her help, yet (as a humble instrument of the spiritual ancestors) Fawn—as an individual—prefers to remain in the background. It is my pleasure, on this rare occasion, to present my dear friend, Fawn Journeyhawk, in her own images 4 and words—both in her first published interview in a peer-reviewed journal and in her first published memoir for a non-native audience, selected from recently recorded texts I’ve enjoyed the privilege of being among the first to read.

– Ronald L. Boyer



Ron Boyer:  Fawn, thank you for agreeing to be profiled in Coreopsis. I realize you prefer to be off the public radar for the most part. Can you tell us why you have decided at this particular time to share your work with a broader public?

Fawn Journeyhawk: There are a number of reasons, the main one being Fukushima. The media lost interest, but the damaged plant continues to spew poisons into the jet stream and the ocean, which are slowly accumulating on our continent. The poison just arrives in such small amounts it’s easy to ignore, but, in time, enough will accumulate in our bodies. And, very soon, we can expect still-births, cancer, and a host of related ailments. You know, when the body’s saturated with radioactive poisons, like cesium, there isn’t much that modern medicine can do.

Photo courtesy Carly Turner

Photo courtesy Carly Turner

When Fukushima blew, I was in hospice care, yet a steady stream of people came in fear seeking reassurance. At that time, I had no ceremony to remove heavy metals or radiation from the body. The only reassurance I could give was that I would quest for the answers to their questions. Boy, that was a rough lesson!

My spirit teachers came once again in my dreamtime. I asked the Ancestors for advice on working with the effects of the disaster. They introduced me to the spirits of the elements that will threaten our well-being in the future. First off, they were mutant spirits programmed just for destruction. The energy surrounding them was angry. You can’t reason with a mutant spirit because they lack emotions that would allow them to understand. I became violently ill in their presence.

Once I was introduced to what I would be dealing with, I was shown how to remove it from the cells of the body. My curiosity and bleeding-heart nature set me up! You see, once you know what to do, well, you’re expected to do it! That, my friend, is why I’m presenting my work to the public. I even purchased a device that is sensitive enough to register the radioactive poisons in the joints and muscles. I can take a reading before and after the removal ceremony to be sure it’s really been done correctly.

Our veterans are another reason. I perfected my work with our Viet Nam War vets. Alternative medicine techniques were “in” during that era, and working in a crisis intervention clinic gave me access to a great many vets. Hopefully I can also help the vets of today.

RB: You prefer that readers focus on your work rather than your personality. Why is that important? And what do you want the world to know about your work?

FJ: My work is impeccable; my person, not so much. I’m not my work. When patients get too close, they can witness the negative aspects of a healer. I’m scatter-brained at times and make mistakes like everyone else. When someone sees that part of me, they can lose faith in my Medicine abilities. Those who know me well are able to separate the person from the work, but outsiders tend to judge me as a person.

What do I want the world to know about my work? I don’t know. Maybe, that I have a higher success rate with mental and physical war wounds than the V.A. does. There are thousands of men and women who suffer greatly from war experiences that I could help if they came to me.

I also specialize in back pain and autism, which seems to be on the rise.

RB: Who – or, what – do you see as your main influences in developing the various aspects of your work as a healer? Who inspired you most and who are your important teachers?

FJ: I guess my curious nature and thirst for knowledge determined the direction of my earth-walk. It was compassion and that awful, helpless feeling I experienced when an animal or person was sick or hurt and I didn’t know what to do to help them that pulled me into the Medicine Path. Emotional decisions can be pretty darn powerful!

Photo courtesy of Carly Turner

And, hindsight was my most influential teacher. I’ve sat before many Masters and practitioners in both the spirit world and this physical dimension throughout the years. I was addicted to the gathering of knowledge. Each bit of information was like one more piece of the puzzle. And, I was certain I’d have the entire picture one day. All I needed was a few more pieces. It was an obsession that took me on one adventure after another.

But when I was 40-years-old my dearest friend developed breast cancer. I was beside myself, and, after years of gathering knowledge, I was still forced to stand by and watch her suffer.

I called my Brother, Dennis Brings Strong Winds (aka Dead Grass), a Pipe Carrier who knows the traditional ways. That was the last call I’d ever make in a state of helplessness. I felt so relieved when he arrived at my door four hours later, with drum and pipe in hand. I had no idea he was sent by the Ancestors to place me on the Medicine Path.

It was a whirlwind of Medicine activity to prepare for the sister’s healing, and all the while I’m thinking we’re doing this for Dead Grass! Native men don’t talk much at times like that, so I walked beside him and just followed his instruction.

The ceremony was a success, and the woman was cancer-free in two hours. When Dead Grass drove away, I was left standing in unfamiliar territory. I was now a Lodge Keeper of two Medicine Lodges with a whole basket full of knowledge I had no idea where or how to apply. Just useless information. Forty years of gathering knowledge, yet I still didn’t get it. I dragged that big old basket of puzzle pieces along with me on the new journey.

That night the Ancestors came in dreamtime, and my spiritual walk began. Then, Frank Chilcote, a traditional Medicine Man of the Crow Nation (of which Mandan is a band), placed me in the XAT Medicine Lodge and began my physical training.

RB: How about your influences as a seer and storyteller?

FJ: Seer and storyteller…hmm. I share my experiences, but I don’t want to wear a title for it. No one taught me to see; that’s innate. By now you’ve figured out that I dislike titles and spotlights. With my abilities, my ego has a tendency to get too big for my own good if I’m not careful. Titles and spotlights tend to feed it. It’s a funny thing: the larger my ego grows, the less effective my abilities become.

RB: Stanley Krippner writes that shamans were both the first doctors and first storytellers.5 As a master of both ancient arts, what can you say about the relationship between storytelling and healing in your indigenous context?

FJ: There were no books or blackboards in the sacred lodges. Information was passed on in the form of entertaining stories. To retain their power, matters of a spiritual nature should not be written down. The right hemisphere of the brain receives and processes verbal input. That hemisphere connects us to the spiritual realm and the collective unconscious. The left hemisphere is ruled by logic, so written information is received and processed as if it were only a story and is censored before it’s shared with the spiritual hemisphere. Medicine Stories carry the healing power through the generations.

Storytelling carries the power from one generation to the next; verbal input and visualization are processed by our spiritual brain. When you read something, it’s processed by the logical brain that filters out the magic. When you want to cut the body open and remove the disease, a book will show you how to do that. But if you want to remove the disease the natural way, you must listen to the story.

My memoirs are life stories, not Medicine Stories. They’re campfire tales that develop their own powers as you read them. When someone reads one of my stories, they seem to consciously appreciate the lesson in the story; when I tell the same story verbally, they appreciate the story itself. As I relive the experience verbally, the body language and facial expressions, along with my laughter, seems to bring the humor to life. There’s an old saying: “It loses something in the translation.” You’ll experience your verbal interviews on a much different level than the people who read them.

RB: Perhaps you can share your early memories of native storytellers who inspired you. Were they female or male elders?

FJ: There was a mixture of nationalities that influenced me, not only Native Americans. In my youth, Indians were experiencing various states of depression brought on by the mistreatment and forced transition into a new culture. Teaching was at a bare minimum, and the native storytellers were mostly silent.

Photo courtesy of Carly Turner

For me, the black elders were a strong influence, because their stories came from deep within them and always contained humor. Black elders were amused and flattered when you asked them to tell you about something. Native elders went through very different emotions and very often refused to speak of the traditional ways. Most were trying to conform to the Christian laws and forget the “heathen ways.’

And a woman from Latvia showed me how to make cabbage rolls, and then told me about the Medicine Women in her country when I was in grade school.

Even the spirit teachers told me stories during dreamtime, but those were connected to Medicine.

So, you might say it was a never-ending procession of first-hand accounts of many races, both males and females, rather than stories taken from myths and legends. It was my love of life that brought about the stories, not really a love of stories.

RB: Please say more about what happens in the sacred lodges.

FJ: The lodges are a place to gather that separates us from the energy fields of the world and allows us to alter the frequency. When the vibration is high, the negative energy is repelled. This insures that whatever takes place in that lodge won’t be influenced by anything negative.

In the lodges, the teachers and elders share their understanding of spiritual matters and explain why we shouldn’t do certain things. Often, if the frequency is right, the women’s councils are joined by earth spirits who impart knowledge. Don’t confuse these spirits with ghosts. Ghosts are extremely low frequency, 18.98 hertz to be exact. In contrast, the frequency of a clear third eye is 221.23 hertz. I have to double check this, because numbers have a tendency to escape me.

Spirits who interact in the sacred lodge are able to match that frequency when they want to be seen. If our vibration is as it should be, we can see them as if they were a physical being. If the third eye isn’t fully open, you may be able to see an energy field instead of the physical manifestation. It looks sort of like a heat wave.

RB: You are also a master of native arts and crafts, especially women’s traditional crafts. How did this interest develop? Were there specific craftspeople in your circle of elders or family who inspired or taught you these arts?

FJ: I’m pretty much self-taught. When you’re around cradle boards, you can easily figure out how to make one. It’s that way with most crafts for me.

One of my fondest memories is my grandmother creating an Easter basket out of cardboard and crepe paper, all the while muttering, in a voice just above a whisper, about the Christian Easter Bunny. She took paper and made something so beautiful right before my eyes. It was the transformation of that paper that inspired me. Hearing the adults discuss the old ways being lost also inspired me. I wasn’t about to let that happen.

My mother was creative and taught me the skills of her White culture, while my grandmother taught natural skills. My father, on the other hand, taught me to be a man. And I must say, I’m damn good at it! It’s funny how the survival skills I learned as a child and young adult became “arts and crafts”!

RB: What are the sacred functions or importance of such artistic expressions to your work and to the world?

FJ: Sacred functions? You take such common, everyday things that I take for granted and describe them in such colorful words. Sometimes it takes me a moment to figure out what you mean.

Original art copyright Fawn Journeyhawk. All rights reserved.

Photo courtesy of Carly Turner

Well, construction of Medicine objects or a young person’s ceremonial regalia so they can dance might fall under that category. Medicine objects are of major importance. They represent the power. It’s physical proof of the un-seeable powers. It’s not much different than an idol, because it becomes a focus point.

Whatever a believer concentrates and directs energy at, like a Medicine bag, can become more powerful. The emotions that hang around with belief are also directed to that bag and intensify the power of belief. A major part of the healing is due to directing the patient’s energy toward themselves through the Medicine bag. Of course, the bag is also connected to the Higher Powers of Healing.

Other objects like this are tools to assist a student in directing their powers. They make good props for the Medicine show. But at my level, their only function is for something to do with my hands.

RB: What do you think of the state of world today? And do you think traditional indigenous ideas and practices can make a difference?

FJ: I was born into a world of simplicity and honor. A man’s handshake was a contract. They said a man was only as good as his word. Children didn’t have to fear strangers and walked for a mile or more to school every day. People feared federal agents, and kidnapping was a federal offense, so only rich kids were kidnapped. That world would have responded to traditional indigenous ideas and practices, and actually did adopt laws from the traditions of the east coast natives.

But this is a different world, with only remnants of the old world left. Traditional understanding could definitely make a difference if the world was ready to listen. But logic, fairness and reason no longer rule this dimension.

RB: Do you have a website where interested readers can learn more about your work? For example, how can prospective students, sponsors, and patients contact you or use your services?

FJ: We are working on putting what I guess you call a “blog” together. It is not currently up. If people want to find me, they should contact my niece Carly at until the website is up. The website will be or

RB: If readers can only take away one thing from this interview, what would that be? Any final words?

FJ: Keep in mind this interview was with Fawn as a person, not Fawn as a shaman. I am no different than anyone else. I make mistakes, I bleed when I’m cut, and sometimes I even cry. My main request is that you not judge my work by my person. Evaluate my words, but hold off on your judgement until seeking further explanation. You’re welcome to challenge what I say, but please try not to do so in the form of a verbal attack, which has become far too common these days.


Read an example of Fawn Journey’s narrative art, Grandmother Moon >>


Photo courtesy Ron Boyer

Ronald L. Boyer is a scholar, teacher, and award-winning poet, fiction author, and screenwriter. He completed his MA in Depth Psychology at Sonoma State University and is also a graduate of the Professional Program in Screenwriting at UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Ron taught his first university course, “Mythic Structure in Storytelling,” for his graduate Internship as a volunteer member of the SSU Psychology Department Faculty. He is a two-time Jefferson Scholar to the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, and two-time award-winner for fiction from the John E. Profant Foundation for the Arts, including the McGwire Family Award for Literature.  Ron’s first short story was published in the horror anthology, America the Horrific. His poetry has been featured in the scholarly e-zine of the Jungian and depth psychology community, Depth Insights: Seeing the World with Soul (Issues 3, 5, & 7); Mythic Passages: A Magazine of the Imagination; Mythic Circle, the literary magazine of the Mythopoeic Society; and many other publications.  

Ron recently completed his first year of doctoral studies in the PhD in Art and Religion program at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, where he also attends classes at UC Berkeley. His scholarly research emphasizes archetypal theory applied to mythology, literature, and film, with a concentration on mythopoeic imagery in the art of Dante Aligheiri, William Blake, and J. R. R. Tolkien. He is an associate editor/reviewer for the new peer-reviewed journal, the Berkeley Journal of Religion and Theology, and a referee and regular contributor to the peer-reviewed journal, Coreopsis: Journal of Myth and Theater. Ron has presented academic papers at the first Symposium for the Study of Myth at Pacifica Graduate Institution and the International Conference for the International Association for Jungian Studies at Arizona State University.

A practitioner of shamanism, Ron has participated in numerous indigenous ceremonies and received initiations from shamans of many tribes, including the Maya, Shuar (Ecuador) and Siberians of the Altai Mountains.





  1. For a recent example of Krippner’s publications on shamanism, see Jones, S. M. S. & Krippner, S. (2012). The voice of Rolling Thunder: A medicine man’s wisdom for walking the red road. Rochester, VT: Bear & Co. A sequel is currently in press.
  2. Apart from an interview with Fawn published in Shaman’s Drum by Marilyn Terhune-Young, PhD, one of Krippner’s students, attempts to record Fawn had repeatedly failed. See Terhune-Young, M. The personal mythology of a shamanic healer.  Shaman’s Drum, Summer 2003. Fortunately, in 2012, I was able to successfully create the first audio-visual recording of Fawn Journeyhawk (assisted by the videographer, Marc Strauch) as an unpublished ethnographic research study conducted while I was a graduate student at Sonoma State University. American ethnomusicologist Dale E. Olsen offers a similar account of the mysterious destructive effects of Warao Indian shamans of the Venezuelan Orinoco Delta on modern recording technologies. See Narby, J. and Huxley, F. (Eds.) (2001). Shamans through time: 500 years on the path to knowledge New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, pp. 212-215.
  3. While preparing this article for publication, one of my sons was unexpectedly stricken by sudden onset of Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL), the most aggressive and damaging of blood cancers. Literally at death’s door, according to his doctors, I notified my friends, including shamans and healers of many traditions, asking their immediate intervention and prayer support. My first request went to Fawn, who replied that she’d do what she could. While many gifted healers joined our expanding international prayer circle, and no individual healer or factor can be defined and credited with the results, it can be stated with certainty that my son has survived and made steady progress since the request went out on July 7. As of today, the date of submission of the final manuscript to Coreopsis (July 19, 2015), my son has been relocated from ICU and may, in fact, be going home in a few days. According to my son, in our lengthy phone conversation last night, he has been labeled by the doctors and nurses who treated him, the “Miracle Man of Traverse City”, Michigan.
  4. Fawn, like many traditional shamans, avoids having photos taken or sharing her occasional photos with the general public.
  5. See Rock, A. J. & Krippner, S. (2011). Demystifying shamans and their world: An interdisciplinary study. Charlottesville, VA: Imprint Academic, p. 31.

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