MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Some people are born in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Others have to work a little harder to get there. For Keia Lewis, the road to the U.P. is only part of her story.

Lewis owns and operates Botánica Quetzalli. The description on her website, which is written below, sums up the meaning behind the name.

“In Latin American cultures, a botánica is a place of support that offers different herbs and items to help community members on their journeys of healing, growth, and transformation. Quetzalli is a Nahuatl (Mexica/Aztec) word that means ‘feather’ or ‘precious thing.’ The wisdom of my ancestors is very precious to me, which is part of what inspired the name of my botánica. Quetzalli, also refers to the beautiful Quetzal bird who is a symbol of freedom. Their feathers are so revered that they were once used as currency in Mesoamerica. The Quetzal is also connected to one of our Guardians, Quetzalcoatl, who is a symbol of healing, goodness, and light.”

In 2020, Lewis and her now-husband were dating at the time and living in Milwaukee. They were tired of city living and looking for more time in nature.

Near the Fall Equinox, the pair decided to go hiking towards Pictured Rocks, but on their way there, they went too far, and they saw a turnoff with a sign for a campground.

“We decided to park there and ended up on this really lovely hike, ending at this pristine beach. The water was super still. We were like, ‘OK, let’s sit here and do a little ceremony,’ Lewis said.

One of Lewis’ teachers taught her how to do a water blessing ceremony, which requires sitting and asking the lake for permission to perform the ceremony.

“I did the ceremony and said if this is where we are meant to land … if this is where we are meant to be to help the community, help us get here in one year. Almost a year to the day, maybe like a week before, we ended up coming here and signing a short-term rental. A few months later we bought our house in Ishpeming,” said Lewis.

Photo Credit: Ben Raymond/WJMN

Lewis said her original career goal was to be a museum curator. Her interest in history and other cultures led her to look more into her own lineage.

“I started on that journey about 10 years ago. I went to yoga teacher training in Milwaukee. Through that time, I had a lot of opening up and realizations and delving deeper into my own healing and growth.” Lewis continued,

While she was going through certification, Lewis did a work-study in the apothecary. She began working with plants and herbs, which she connected to like never before.

“They really just called to me. I felt there was something different that I had never experienced before. As I was delving in, I was like, ‘There has to be this in my own culture,'” she said.

“I was talking to my mom and my grandma, and they were like, ‘Oh yeah, your Ama Lupe was a Curandera,’ which is a traditional Mexican healer. She was an herbalist and a town midwife. It started puzzle-piecing together.”

Lewis is Chicana (Mexican-American) with Mexican-Lipan Apache and European-American ancestry.

“Because my Ama Lupe was a Curandera, that’s the path that I’ve been called to. That’s in the blood. That’s in the DNA.”

Lewis said embracing that path has been intense and wonderful.

“I have two teachers. One in New Mexico that’s specific about working with herbs. Then I have another teacher in Phoenix who does ceremonies and healing. It’s the two sides of my business,” said Lewis.

Photo Credit: Ben Raymond/WJMN

Lewis describes herself as being in the business of well-being. That means anything from massage therapy to Reiki or energy healing. She also does a lot of work with herbalism, making an effort to tailor different recommendations based on numerous factors, including a person’s cultural background.

Lewis has started using the phrase, “Mi Vida es me ofrenda.” It translates to, “My life is my offering.” She said taking her life knowledge and experience and sharing it with others makes it a fitting representation of her business.

Lewis encourages people to look into their own lineage and their own ancestry. She said each culture had its own specific herbs that they worked with that had really deep meaning and were used for different purposes.

As she creates herbal formulas for people, if she knows their ancestry, she tries to put an herbal formula together that has some of those components in it.

Photo Credit: Ben Raymond/WJMN

“I’ve found that when people use those certain herbs, it hits differently. They have a greater and deeper effect almost. We could say it’s DNA level, it’s metaphysical. I don’t know what it is. I’ve just seen it enough times that it is apparent that there’s something there,” she said.

Lewis can be found at the Marquette Farmer’s Market. You can also follow Botánica Quetzalli on Instagram or visit her website here.