The Cree Indian woman who came from Canada to talk about spiritual healing found an eager audience in 60 or so people who gathered recently at the Community Cafe and Bookstore in Bethesda.
"I have a gift. I've had it all my life," Rose Auger said, hands on hips. "I communicate into the spirit world of our ancestors and use the powers of the Creator to heal on earth."
Auger, also known as Woman Who Stands Strong, is a tribal medicine woman who is well-known throughout Canada to devotees of parapsychology and holistic medicine.
She lives in Faust, Alberta near a Cree Indian reservation called Drift Pile. For the past decade she has been using herbs, a sauna-like facility known as a sweat lodge and other traditional Cree methods of medicine to treat persons suffering from mental and physical ailments. In 1974 the National Film Board of Canada produced a film about Auger and her traditional medical practices entitled, "Like the Trees."
Last week she arrived in Washington on a lecture tour arranged by Sandie Johnson, a Rockville hazardous waste consultant who is interested in alternative methods of healing.
"She is highly articulate and an expert in ancient ways of thought and medicine," Johnson said of Auger. "I wanted others in the States to know about her as well."
In addition to her appearance at the Bethesda Cafe at 4949 Bethesda Ave., Auger spoke last week to an anthropology class at John F. Kennedy High School in Wheaton and at the Holistic Health Center on Capitol Hill.
Dressed in a deerskin skirt and moccasins and a brilliant black, green and red beaded cape, she told the crowd of students, local Indians and holistic medicine buffs that spiritual healing entails "a total wholeness of the mind, body and spirit . . . . You cannot heal only one part of you, you have to heal them all."
Auger, who has six children and describes herself as "ageless," said she has used her hands to cure everything from cancer to drug addiction. "I've had this gift since I was a little girl," she told the hushed listeners. "I place my hands where it hurts most . . . . The only problem is getting rid of the pain in my hands after it is transferred from the sufferer to me."
"Can you explain exactly the methods you use to cure people?" one person asked Auger after her hour-long talk was finished.
"The setting just isn't right for that," Auger answered. "We would need to sit together with a peace pipe and tobacco. That is the way true spiritual healing is communicated."
She then turned to listen to another woman describe, with much detail, how she had been a psychic since childhood and was able at that very moment to discern the thoughts of many people in the audience. Auger listened attentively, occasionally nodding her head in understanding.
Later a group of Piscataway Indians from Accokeek gave a boisterous rendition of a sacred peace chant. Afterward, the crowd sipped cups of spring water, sold from a cooler for 15 cents a cup, and began drifting away into the rainy night.