Native Americans and Medicine
Native Americans believe that in order to stay strong and healthy, they have to keep a strong spiritually, mentally, and physically. If you stay true to the Native traditions, beliefs and obey tribal religious tenets you will maintain healthy living. One of the way that this can be achieved is by treating all life with respect. Treating animals, plants, rocks, rivers, rainbows, ect, with the up most respect for this beings. The spirit is a representation of your physical body, and Native Americans believe that each and every person is responsible for their own health and well being. There are some primary tools that Native Americans use to help them maintain the balance between good and bad harmony in their lives. (1) Medicine sticks are one of the more fascinating artifacts and tools used by Native Americans. Brave warriors use the medicine stick for important reasons. It is said that when a warrior uses one, he can avoid being hurt in battle. The symbolic meanings and spiritual elements that govern the unique traditions and beliefs of the Native American people are well shown in the medicine stick. These unique items are made of the traditional materials used in Native American crafts. Medicine sticks are constructed of wood which is carved and then wrapped with leather and adorned with feathers and fur. Many times the craftsman will attach a small medicine bag. These items represent the essential interconnection of the human world to nature and how nature affects mankind. There are many uses of the Native dance stick such as praying, dancing and medicinal purposes. The medicine stick is crafted in such a way that many can appreciate the beauty and history of this unique artifact. The medicine stick can be packed with symbolism regarding the culture, people and the environment in which the tribal people live. The spiritual connection with the environment and the harnessing of spiritual elements of the medicine stick helps to ward off negative spirits, that may intend to harm, cause physical or mental illness, on going bad luck, or even trauma. Dr. White, Director of The Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM) and Dr. Henderson, CEO of Black Hills Center for American Indian Health; discuss cancer research as it relates to complementary and alternative medicine in the Native American community. (Interview -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kN2NIlE9VLg&feature=player_embedded )
Natural Herbal medicine is also use by the Native Americans to help, prevent, and treat both minor and major issues with the human body. (2) This type of remedy is / was a key role in helping the body with aches and pains that may have hindered someone. The tribes people would journey around their location in search of various items such as Herbs, roots, and other natural Plants that could be used or combined together to make a concoction used to heal. This practice has been passed down from generation to generation via word of mouth and demonstration and most of the healing rituals are still a mystery to this day. There were some tribes who developed a form of writing where they were able to document the ingredients and steps to perform the ritual.
Herbs and Plants are the most common use of this system, and can be available in a variety of forms such as powders, teas, and extracted right from the plants. A quote from Arapaho Proverb – “All plants are our brothers and sisters. They talk to us and if we listen, we can hear them”.
Another type of Native American Medicine was in the form of Healing rituals and Ceremonies performed by local tribes people to promote Harmony and balance with themselves and the tribe as well as the surroundings. These types of rituals or Ceremonies varied between tribes and some tribes such as the Sioux and Navajo used a form of a Wheel or what they refer to it as “ A Sacred Hoop” and would perform the ceremonies that could go on for days and days....
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