The National Library of Medicine's healing totem was created to promote good health, in keeping with the mission of the doctors and scientists who work here at NIH to advance our knowledge of health and medicine. Master carver Jewell James of the Lummi Nation in the Pacific Northwest explains that figures in this totem are based on stories of his tribe and of the Algonquin Nation in the Northeastern United States.
The totem was carved from a 500-year-old red cedar tree from the Northern Cascade Mountains of Washington State.
Medicine Woman in the Moon
The Algonquin story of the Medicine Woman in the Moon teaches us to appreciate and protect our knowledge, and to understand that the answers to some questions may take a long time to be revealed. In the story, a powerful woman healer, gifted with the knowledge to cure many ailments, wished to know when the world would end. Told by a spirit that she could learn this secret only if she hid away from other humans, she traveled to the Moon, which protects the earth by night. She still waits there patiently today and, when the Moon is full, she can be seen weaving a headband. Once her question is answered, she will return home. Red, black, white and yellow signify the four races of mankind. All four are included to represent the idea that traditional knowledge and medicines are indigenous to all four races on the earth.
Tree of Life
A powerful symbol not just of Native American beliefs but in many cultures worldwide. The Tree represents the forests from which medicines were gathered.
Woman with a Gathering Basket
Symbolizing the role of women in collecting traditional herbs and medicinal plants.
Colors? ? ? ? Meaning
Red?? ? ? ? Blood and Valor
Blue?? ? ? ?Water and sky
White? ? ? Skies and spacious heavens
Yellow? ? ?Sun, light and happiness
Green? ? ? Earth with hills, trees and mountains
Black? ? ? ?Power