Rolling Thunder: Native American Medicine Man

John Pope, more widely known as Native American medicine man Rolling Thunder, had views on the need for wise stewardship of the earth that were remarkably congruent with those of white ecologists and conservationists.

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    Native American Medicine Man Rolling Thunder smoking a ceremonial pipe.

  • 070 rolling thunder

To his neighbors and coworkers in Carlin, Nevada he's John Pope, a veteran brakeman for the Southern Pacific Railroad. But his family, friends, and tribal brothers and sisters—as well as the hundreds of people who've witnessed demonstrations of his remarkable healing power—know him as Rolling Thunder, a native American Indian and heir to a traditional role among his people: that of inter-tribal medicine man. 

In the manner of most such healers, Rolling Thunder deals more in matters of the spirit than of the flesh and—although he doesn't "do anything for show"—evidences of his ability have been said to astound the most skeptical of observers. For example, it's reported that several years ago Rolling Thunder agreed to conduct a healing ritual for a research group at the Edgar Cayce Foundation in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In addition to curing three patients with documented medical histories (who were selected beforehand by doctors at the conference), he treated a man who had severely crippled hands. However, Rolling Thunder first had to describe the individual's ailment so that the reluctant patient could be located in the audience and brought forward to be examined. After the healer told the audience to look for someone with gnarled, twisted hands hidden in his pockets, the "volunteer" was found, brought to the stage, and cured of his handicap. When he was questioned later about the incident, Rolling Thunder explained that the sick man's spirit had come to him the night before the ceremony and insisted that he promise to treat the man, since the unfortunate individual wouldn't have the courage to come forth and ask for help at the meeting himself. 

Born in Oklahoma to Cherokee parents, reared in hardship, and later married to a Shoshone woman, Rolling Thunder is a modern-day Indian who's trying to preserve the heritage of his ancestors. Therefore throughout his adult life the medicine man has devoted his energies to various Indian causes (such as opposing the Bureau of Land Management's systematic destruction of pinon trees on Shoshone Indian land), as well as to easing the pain of persons who come to him asking for assistance. 

Rolling Thunder's traditional name means "speaking the truth," and he does offer a message about native Americans that's sometimes grim and sometimes optimistic, but that always represents his true beliefs. The tribal healer's vision of reality is based upon the tragic past of his people and upon their close relationship to the earth, a special kinship between humanity and its environment that can provide inspiration for the simpler, back-to-the-land lifestyle so many folks yearn for these days. However, this native American offers an unusual attitude toward living lightly on the planet, one that is entirely spiritual in its origin. 

Like most American Indians, Rolling Thunder has a profound respect for Mother Earth and for all of her life forms. During the course of his training in traditional native healing arts, the young Cherokee developed an awareness of and sensitivity to the spirit contained in all living things. He has words of wisdom for the modern homesteader who wants to return to his or her "roots" in the soil, and to live a life that's (quite literally) close to the land. He advises: "Love the earth, treat it gently, and it will reward you. " 

Rolling Thunder also has much to say to practitioners of the various wholistic healing therapies. Since he's an inheritor and protector of ancient tribal secrets, the medicine man is naturally somewhat reserved when speaking with outsiders about such subjects, but willingly shares much of his knowledge with anyone who is seriously interested in his work. 

4/24/2015 6:26:43 PM

I would like Rolling Thunder to conjoin me and my fiance in Holy Matrimony someday.What a splendid union he would endorse!

12/18/2007 2:08:34 PM

I suffer from epilepsy and the cause remains a mystery,however ever since my adolescence I have been focus of events which can be characterized as paranormal at best.I fear that is the root of my ailment and that there may be apossibility that such negative energy targets my children. I write so that perhaps someone can help me defeat whatever's behind or otherwise.Thanks!

12/11/2007 1:09:54 PM

Rolling Thunder came to my aid in 1986 in Atlanta Ga, where I had a health food restaurant. Before he arrived I demanded a "Sane Man" appear. I was down hearted and disgusted with our society. Several months before he arrived a mask appeared in my room, I was sucked in feet first, only to awaken as a wolf in a vast desert area, there we met as wolves, and howled together communicating. A couple of months later, objects appeared, a turban squash shaped like his hat, and then a cherokee wolf mask was given to me, then I found a dream mask at a Native Store in Sautee GA. And in came Rolling Thunder to my restaurant, with his entourage putting up posters, about his speaking engagement in Atlanta. I attended and he spoke all day to about 100 people. He was a "Sane man" , amazing how we can communicate on this planet to one another. I have been shape-shifting for various reasons before and after the occurrance with Rolling Thunder. I am a sensitive, mystic, and shamanette, I am doing religious comparative studies, and have been attending "The Church of Religious Science" in Atlanta " for 20 yrs. I am an artist by trade. I am now documenting this adventure in an illustrated book I hope to have published soon. I hope to share the amazing sacredness life has to offer us when you are equipped with and open mind and good intentions. Life is a Holy Dance.

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