The Scalpel and the Silver Bear
The Navajo creation story explains that medicine was brought to the people by an ancient owl. This owl sent down a magic bundle containing the powers of healing to the new world. For thousands of years Navajo people have used this knowledge to heal and live in harmony with each other. As a product of two worlds, Dr. Lori Alvord was one of the first people to combine modern medicine with Navajo beliefs by overcoming cultural differences.
The Scalpel and the Silver Bear follows Lori Alvord on her journey from humble beginnings on the Navajo Reservation to a surgeon in the operating room. She was raised in a small community in the Navajo Nation which spans territory the size of West Virginia and provides refuge to over 250,000 Navajos (Navajo). Alvord recalls that by nearly any standards it would be considered a third world country; most houses didn’t even have running water or electricity. The simple life style of the people on the reservation reflected that of their ancestors who lived in harmony with the universe and built relationships with the earth.
When Alvord was just sixteen she left the comfort of the “rez” for Dartmouth University. The decision was not easy as she saw what happened to others who had left the reservation. Her greatest fear was that she would lose the Navajo way, but in the end she knew that no matter where she was, “in my heart I was all Navajo.” Once there, she was one of only fifty Native Americans. After graduating from Dartmouth she attended Stanford Medical School with the intent of bringing western medicine to the reservation.
Identity can be both marked and constructed. She is a half-Navajo half-Caucasian woman and that cannot change. She even adopts many different identities in each on her two cultures. In the western world she is first an outsider, then a student, then a respectable surgeon....
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