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Native American Medicine

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Native American Medicine

"Native American medicine is based on widely held beliefs about healthy living, the repercussions of disease-producing behavior, and the spiritual principles that restore balance." -Ken "Bear Hawk" Cohen (Chrisman 1).

The beliefs that Cohen is referring to are shared by all North and South Native American tribes, however, the methods of diagnosis as well as the treatments vary significantly. This is mainly due to the fact that Native American medicine is based upon a spiritual view of life. A healthy person is someone who has a sense of purpose and follows the guidance of the Great Spirit who represented the central religious figure for most tribes (Chrisman 2). It is believed that someone is unhealthy because they have done something morally wrong, or not within their culture's boundaries of what is deemed acceptable. If the tribe member did do something wrong, often they would not receive medical treatment because it was believed that they were learning a lesson as a direct result of their actions. However, many times when an illness could not be accounted for the patient would receive medical attention. Native American medicine was administered through two primary sources, ritual procedures and rational therapy (Vogel ix). These two sources provided working combinations that were able to cure many illnesses for several reasons.

The medical practice of rational therapy was generally practiced first. It is referred to as rational therapy because actual substances, such as parts of plants and herbs, were used and often resulted in medical success. Many people do not realize how many contributions the Native Americans made in the field of medicine. They experimente...

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...y due to the advances in scientific medicine, the introduction of medical insurance, free services, and the general availability of the medical care today. Also, many tribes have had to relocate to land where their valuable resources of plants and herbs may not be present. When a tribe member is ill, often he will visit a clinic on the reservation rather than the shaman. While at the clinic variations of the Native American remedies are used. The white man adapted the native practices to administer them through the clinics and hospitals. The medicine that we practice today is a combination of Native healing practices and modern science. The vast contributions made by our Native Americans must not be overseen or forgotten. The indigenous peoples of the Americas set up the basic grounds of experimentation and administration of multiple pharmaceuticals used today.

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