The Native American Medicine Man
From the Past to the Present
The Native American medicine man, also known as a shaman (modern term), priest, healer, and even a “Star Being” were known to be the spiritual leaders of Native American cultures. Each medicine man was unique in his own way simply because each Native American tribe had their own origin of spirituality and religious beliefs. Each medicine man had their own theory on how to rid people of their troubles and ease their pain when they were ill or in some sort of distress. In this research paper I will be examining different medicine man practices and beliefs from the Native American tribes of the Cheyenne, Iroquois, and the Sioux Indians. I will be discussing some of the most common illnesses that Native Americans faced among their tribes and what the medicine men or women did to help. I will also be discussing the different resources the medicine man used, including plants for herbal remedies and other objects, in his method of curing or helping a patient; and lastly I will be discussing how some techniques have been modernized and are still used today.
To begin with our observation, let us start by understanding more about the medicine man himself and how the medicine man was perceived amongst his tribe. Even though each medicine man was unique in his practices, each medicine man shared a common adoration amongst their tribal members. In general, tribes have many similarities in regards to medical practices, but the actual methods used differ with the tribe and their locations, as well as with individual healers themselves. “Magic, prayers, songs, exhortation, suggestion, ceremonies, fetishes, and certain specifics and mechanical processes are employed only by the medicine-men or medicine-women; other specific remedies or procedures are proprietary, generally among a few old women in the tribe; while many vegetal remedies and simple manipulations are of common knowledge in a given locality.”
The medicine man was not relied on to hunt and fish for food like other tribesmen were. The medicine man was more useful when he could be out spreading his tribes’ religious beliefs to others as well as bringing peace to those troubled or ill. The medicine man was much like our modern day doctor, priest, psychiatrist, and counselor all rolled up into one big package that was relied on to heal not only a person’s body but also a person’s spirit. He even sometimes served as a middle man to bring peace between humans troubled with other humans. The medicine man was like a virtual bridge between the natural world and the spiritual world for the benefit of his community. Practices and Beliefs
As stated above, different techniques of healing were involved in a medicine man’smethods: Magic, prayers, songs and ceremonies were the most common.Magicwas used to oppose an alleged harmful influence, such as spirits of the dead, mythical animals, etc. Prayers in contrast, often addressed good spirits as the medicine man would try to call upon their aid while he was attending his patient. Healing songs consisted of prayers or exhortations and were sung. Loud ranting wasalso done to ward off evil spirits that wereknown to cause sickness; the loud noises was saidto frighten such evil spirits away. Ceremonies meant to cure a patient usually combined all or most of the techniques mentioned above. Some of them, as described about the Navaho Indians, were very complicated, drawn out, and tended to be costly.3 “The fetishes used are peculiarly shaped stones or wooden objects, lightning-riven wood, feathers, claws, hair, figurines of mythic animals, representations of the sun, of lightning, etc, and are supposed to embody a mysterious power capable of preventing disease or of counteracting its effects.”3 Dieting and total self-restraint from food were also forms of treatment in some various localities.
The Cheyenne Indians are known to be one of...
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