Native American/Alaska Native Traditional Healing
April 12, 2012
Traditional healing is "holistic." It does not focus on symptoms or diseases. Instead, it deals with the total individual. Different people with HIV disease may get different treatments. Healing focuses on the person and their environment, not only the illness.
Certain people in each tribe are recognized as healers. They receive special teachings. Healing traditions are passed from one generation to the next through visions, stories, and dreams. People usually receive traditional healing through community or family referrals.
Healing does not follow written guidelines. Healers work differently with each person they help. They use their herbs, ceremony and power in the best way for each individual. Healers may be used for certain conditions. They might refer people to other healers, if appropriate.
Healing might involve sweat lodges, talking circles, drumming, ceremonial smoking of tobacco, potlatch ceremonies, herbalism, animal spirits, or "vision quests," to name a few practices. Each tribe uses its own techniques. They are only steps towards becoming whole, balanced and connected.
Some traditional healers only work with members of their own tribe, while some healers will work with others. Some people who are not Native American believe that working with a traditional healer has helped them.
Many people use the techniques of traditional healing. However, there is a big difference between traditional healing and using traditional techniques. Participating in a sweat lodge might help someone for a particular health problem but not for another. Also, the experience could be very different depending on who runs the sweat lodge.
Traditional ceremonies usually involve much more than outsiders are aware of. When you attend a ceremony, show respect by asking about guidelines for observing or participating.
Most western physicians do not understand the value or importance of traditional healing to their Native American patients. A few, especially in areas with large Native American populations, are more open to traditional healing.
If you combine western medicine and traditional healing, let your physician know about any treatments you are using. There might be interactions. For example, a traditional healer might use an herbal preparation to help you sleep. In that case, your physician would probably not want you to take sleeping pills. Your healer might want you to use herbs to cleanse your system. These might interact with western medications that you are taking. Your physician might help you avoid negative interactions.
Traditional healers do not follow a standard procedure. Instead, they apply their skills to each person individually.
By themselves, techniques such as sweat lodges or vision quests are not "traditional healing." They have the most meaning as part of an overall healing tradition.
It is best if your care providers all know about everything you are doing for your health. There may be interactions among different techniques that you want to avoid. Inform the healers working with you, both western and traditional, what medications, treatments and dietary patterns you follow on a daily basis, whether they are prescribed or not.
www.nnaapc.org. Their telephone number is (720) 382-2244.
This article was provided by AIDS InfoNet. Visit AIDS InfoNet's website to find out more about their activities and publications.