As the main text of this piece describes, my informant learned this cure from a friend whose Grandfather was a Paiute Indian. Although he lived in a rural area between Cloverdale and Boonville, California, the man probably brought his knowledge of the treatment from somewhere in the Great Basin area that the Paiutes inhabited before genocide was committed upon them by white settlers.
This remedy was introduced to my informant by a childhood friend of hers who, upon seeing the wart on her thumb, asked to show her how to treat it.
“So I had a wart on my bone of my thumb knuckle, and it would go away– I would get like the wart remover at the store, and I’d put it on and it would go away but it would come back. And my friend G who’s grandfather was Paiute Indian had these fish bones that he had saved when he was alive for just this process. Um–He had stored this fish-bone-jar in his pantry and he was long past but the fish was caught at the creek on their property and I believe it was a steelhead. And–uhhh–she told me that her grandfather told her if you take these fish bones and you put them in your wart, going in one side and coming out the other side in as many different angles as you could, the wart would fall off and never return. And so I did that and it looked like I had a little porcupine on my thumb and I had to put a Bandaid over it so it didn’t catch on things, but it eventually fell off with the fishbone spikes and it never came back!”
Because this treatment worked for my informant, it’s a perfect example of the effectiveness of folk medicine. While many people of Western society disregard the potential benefits of folk medicine, much of it promises value. Even though modern medicine is thought to be much more precise and successful than its folk counterpart, many folk remedies have undergone hundreds or thousands of years of trial and error. This has allowed their tradition-bearers to understand which natural compounds are good for use in medicine along with their specific applications, and which are not. Illustrating the idea I’ve just presented is the fact that many cures which we consider to be modern medicine are compounds synthesized from plants that are commonly used in folk medicine.