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Florence Jones, 95, a Healer and Indian Spiritual Leader, Dies

Associated Press, USA
Nov. 30, 2003
www.nytimes.com

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Tuesday December 2, 2003

REDDING, Calif., Nov. 29 Florence Curl Jones, a renowned Native American healer and the spiritual leader of the Winnemem band of Wintu Indians in Shasta County, died at home last Saturday, according to the Shasta County Coroner’s office. She was 95.

Ms. Jones was revered among many tribes for her healing abilities using native plants and her strict adherence to traditional ways, said Caleen Sisk-Franco, 51, her successor and great-niece.

She also fought for the protection of sacred Indian land, and was working to get the Winnemem band returned to the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ list of officially recognized tribes, said Mark Franco, a member of the 150-member Wintu.

Ms. Jones led a four-day ceremony every August, drawing people from miles around who came seeking cures. She had a vast knowledge of native plants and herbs, which she used to treat diabetes, cancer, ovarian cysts and other ailments, tribal members said. Even Western doctors went to her for advice, Mr. Franco said.

Ms. Jones was also the most fluent speaker of the tribe’s endangered language and helped to foster its revival.

According to tribal officials, Ms. Jones’s mother was 60 years old when she gave birth to her along the banks of the McCloud River, south of Mount Shasta, Mr. Franco said. The unusual circumstances of her birth worried the Wintu shamans, and six came to decide whether the baby was good or evil.

“They immediately decided she was special,” said Toby McLeod, a filmmaker who depicted her life in the 2001 documentary “In the Light of Reverence.” The film was broadcast nationally on PBS.

As a little girl, Ms. Jones was trained as a healer by her mother and grandmother, but that training was interrupted when she was twice taken from her family by the federal government to work and attend school.

When she was 17, she returned to the McCloud river area and continued her training as a healer.

She married Andrew Jones, and over the years became an expert on the healing purposes of native Northern Californian plants. She eventually became the tribe’s leader and “top doctor,” leading tribal ceremonies on sacred sites on and around Mount Shasta.

Ms. Jones is survived by her daughter, Grace Marjory Charles.

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