alice walker

Adapted from "Grandmothers Council the World" by Carol Schaefer
Trumpter Books, 2006

Alice Walker is among the world's most esteemed authors. Her book, The Color Purple won her the Pulitzer Prize. The movie of the same name was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Oprah Winfrey. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards.

Alice was born and raised in Putnam County, Georgia, as the youngest of eight children. Her parents were sharecroppers; her mom also worked as a domestic and dairy woman. They were very, very poor and lived in miserable shacks. But Alice's mother kept reminding her children that life on this green planet is paradise.

"I could see through my mother that we were living in magic, that this world is all magic," Alice says.  "My mother showed me in nature that we are never alone. She could grow anything. It was like living with a goddess."

Alice overcame many difficulties in her life, including losing her sight in one eye after being shot by a BB gun. But she did find it hard to resolve the stories of two ancestors. The first was a Cherokee relative who was horribly abused, then grew up to be violent and mean. The second was her father's mother who was murdered because of her great beauty. Her grandmother was blamed for her own death.

"I've been working with these family stories a lot," Alice says. "This sense of the deep wounding we have. How can we remember that the people who came into our families 150 years ago were not merely the little sliver of information that was passed down, like 'She was so beautiful; she shouldn't have been so beautiful'?"

The emotions raised by her ancestors' stories spurred Alice to seek out indigenous ways of healing. The term "medicine" in indigenous cultures applies to anything that heals body, mind, or spirit.  The plant medicine Ayahuasca, used by indigenous peoples from the Amazon, is helping her explore those emotions.

Alice believes modern drugs and medicines only treat a small portion of one's illness. Alice's experiences with Ayahuasca have convinced her that we must protect natural medicines. "Traditional medicine is always administered in the context of ceremony, which gives it a different complexity, and so the healing happens in the body but also the psyche."

Many churches and those from the dominant society believe traditional medicines are heresy. Shamans have asked Alice to help keep traditional medicines such as Ayahuasca from being declared illegal. They also want their medicines protected from patents by drug companies. Their pleas and Alice's experiences resulted in her  latest novel, Now is the Time to Open your Heart.

When opening herself to the Grandmothers, Alice revealed, "I come from the South, but before coming from the South I think I must have come from the stars. I feel so entirely at home both on Earth and in space."

 Additional resource:

Other Women Elders Native Village Home Page

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