Jason Semaganis-Johnson follows the traditions of his Plains Cree ancestors, having been raised in them since he was a child. As an adult, now 32 years old, he is a healer and a teacher and has, as he says, “gone public.” Although he’s been practicing in private as a healer for 20 years, he is now reaching out to the general public and has plans to found a healing centre on Little Pine First Nation, his home.
Most recently, Johnson facilitated two workshops in North Battleford, this past weekend and the weekend prior, on herbs that can be found in Saskatchewan and how they can be used for healing. There are plans in the works to take this workshop and additional workshops on spiritual healing to other centres in Saskatchewan and Alberta as well.
Coming from a long line of medicine men and women, Johnson has been on a life-long journey of education.
"I've been studying herbs for over 20 years," says Johnson. "I was taught by medicine men and women, but most of them have now passed away."
He says many so-called weeds are actually powerful medicines. He points to the dandelion as an example.
The plants he addresses in his workshops can be found in Saskatchewan, parts of Alberta and parts of Manitoba. His workshop not only teaches how to find and use the plants, but addresses the protocols by which they should be grown, harvested and stored, and these can be different for men and women.
While medicinal plants can be cultivated, Johnson says they are not as potent as their wild versions, but because many of these medicinal plants are now being grown commercially, such as silver buffalo berry, prairie sage, pasture sage and sweet grass, they are becoming rare in the wild.
“A wild medicine will protect itself," says Johnson.
"Once a powerful medicine finds out that humans found it, it usually moves. People say it magically moves, but roots will move to a different area."
Johnson says there are fewer native people carrying on the knowledge of what he has learned from his teachers.
"A lot of it has to do with alcoholism and drugs nowadays in my generation," says Johnson.
Being taught traditionally since he was a child, learning about herbs and roots, the spiritual attributes of stone and natural healing methods was, to him, normal.
At a later age, "being in 'society,' I realized it wasn't as normal as I thought it was."
Tracing his lineage back to the famous Cree leader, Chief Big Bear, Johnson says his spirit animal is the brown bear.
"The history of my family started out with Chief Big Bear," says Johnson. "Within the Big Bear's lineage, a lot of our spirit animals are bears. My spirit animal is the brown bear and traditionally the brown bear has a lot to do with roots and medicines and things like that."
Before taking his Introduction to Herbs in Saskatchewan workshop public, says Johnson, he sought the permission of a council of elders, with the proper ceremony, to share the knowledge of the herbal medicines.
"Everything in our native culture has to be followed by protocol, because we believe if it isn't followed by protocol … what goes around comes around. If I do something wrong it's going to come back to me."
Johnson says he has been taught to be the bridge from the old world, where he was brought up, to the new world, which is the modalities he practices today.
"In the older traditions, we do energy work but we don't call them modalities," says Johnson. "It's just public term for herbalism and things like that."
What he calls “modernized modalities” is about helping people get back to the earth. He has trained in a variety of healing modalities, is certified in most of them, and is pursuing even more.
"I am certified in Reiki and Access Bars," he says.
Access Bars is a healing modality that works with 32 energy points about the head, and helps with healing, finance, relationships, dealing with past lives and more.
"I'm also certified as an Akashic Records healer," he says. "People believe in different ways, but Akashic Records is reading a person without cards or anything, reading their past life, their life purpose. When I do my reading for Akashic Records, sometimes past loved ones come forward and they give me messages to pass on to the person."
Johnson also does psychic readings and reads cards – angel cards, tarot cards and oracle cards.
"Another thing that I've gotten into is nutrition. I do that through a company called Juice Plus. They do a lot with fruits, vegetables and berries through nutrition."
He says, "They call it business, I call it lifestyle. It's a great way for me to train … get to meet doctors and nurses, homeopaths and naturopaths. It works perfectly."
Through the many modalities he has trained in and practices, Johnson has been able to support himself and now he plans to establish a natural healing centre on Little Pine First Nation. He has some land from his family and they have asked him to make his home there to protect the land from being destroyed by farming and industry such as oil exploration.
It’s a piece of land that healers from far reaches have visited in order to collect healing plants.
"I want to be able to carry on that knowledge and keep the land safe," says Johnson.
Some of his other forms of education will be helpful as well, such as a course in tourism and cooking that he took at Lakeland College.
"It's a 10-year planned process, trying to train myself as much as I can. That way, in the future when I am older, I will be able to train my family and other people – 'I was broke and this is how I did it over the years.'"
Along the way he has had to face negativity from the public, but he is thankful for the many blessings he's had from elders and other healers.
"When I say healers, it's not just native people," says Johnson. "Healers from all over the world have given me blessings, simply put, 'God put you on Earth for a reason and now you are starting to find out your life purpose as a healer.’"
He is undertaking some fundraising efforts to be able to build his home and healing centre this summer.
Maybe he'll settle down, he laughs. He has been moving about western Canada for many years – North Battleford, Saskatoon several times, Lloydminster, even Vancouver.
He attended Sakewew High School in North Battleford and was involved in anti-racism efforts, human rights and environmental activism and politics as a student. He was also a founder of the Gay Straight Alliance there, a group that continues to be active.
"A lot of people are asking me to come back," he says, and he's been asked to open a shop in North Battleford, which he may do eventually, but his Little Pine centre has to come first.
Johnson says he was born into what he is doing.
"A lot of elders had visions of me in the future," he says. "They had a vision of a young man – I didn't think it was going to be me – but a lot of elders that have passed away had visions of a young person helping people get back to the earth, helping people live a more natural sustainable life. They said this person was already born, but they didn't know who it was, and then a couple of years after, within my spending time with these elders and training through them, they realized it was me."
There are such people in every region, in every native culture.
"I'm one of the persons who are going to be helping people live a more sustainable, healthier life."
Johnson can be found at his Facebook page, Jason Johnson aka Elf Angel.