Native american science





If you were in the desert or woods and bitten by a snake, where you go for help? A call to the local ambulance and a fast ride to the emergency room are not available to you. How would you know what potions to use and what would heal your wounds? This was the dilemma of the Native American People hundreds of years ago. How did they handle it? The medical traditions and customs have remained a mystery to us for hundreds of years. This paper will try to explore some of these customs and possibly uncover some of the mystery.
Our life is an age of previously unimaginable medical breakthroughs. The technology we know today is one that emulated witchcraft to our great grand parents. Yet, with all that we can do, all of the healing we can accomplish by this modern medicine, we seen to be resorting back to the idea of natural holistic health care. Maybe, the Native American People had the right idea.
Our arrogance leads us to believe that we know the most about health care but the ancient people, who lived in this country before us, knew more than we are willing to give them credit for. “Their medicine was combination of faith, blind luck and relying on the good earth – relying on what was there” (Howard, 2000. P.2)
Early man’s medicine was mixture of fear, folklore and superstition. They used plants that resembled the diseased or injured body part with shapes or colors that copied them. For example, yellow leaves were good for Jaundice and red ones for blood. If a leaf resembled the shape of the liver, that is were it was used. Native Americans were great inventors and well ahead of their times. They developed syringes, had knowledge of anesthetics and antiseptics as well as knowing how to set fractures. The trick was using what was available to them. Many of the herbal remedies used can be found today in our health food stores.
St. John’s Wort, which is considered to be a “natural Prozac” was very common and widely available. It was use by Indians because of the calming effect it had on the central nervous system. All remedies were carried in a little satchel, called a medicine bag. This bag was filled with roots tied up in individual bundles with some order as to what items belonged together.
The center of the Native American Heath care system was the medicine man. The medicine men were priests, magicians and healers who handed down their knowledge and customs from one generation to the next. Medicine men were considered wealthy; receiving many gifts of money and wild life if a sick person they treated became well again. They were required to be masters at their craft, much like the doctors of today. Knowing every song, every word and ritual in perfect tune and order was essential for success. Everything had to be perfect and correct in order for it to work. The medicine man ultimately disappeared when “during a forty year period ending in 1934, the us government forbade the tribal role: anyone attempting to serve as a medicine man was to be imprisoned for no less than ten days or until such time as he could produce evidence, satisfactory to the court, that he would forever abandon all such practices.” (Dharmananda, 2000, P.3)
In delivering modern nursing care while incorporating the beliefs and customs of the Native American, a nurse does not have to move very far beyond what she already knows. The Native American believes that “well being and wellness is total: body, mind, and spirit. It’s holistic. Its not just about a physical aliment and treating a physical ailment” (Simth-Mala, 2000, P.1). This belief comes close to the theory that nurse treats the person and the person’s reaction to a disease. If we, as nurses, care for a person and not treat them like a broken machine, we will be reproducing the beliefs of the Native American. If a person feels as if he can be well, then the chances of a successful recovery are better. The nurse’s attitude and methods of care can greatly influence that.
The nursing actions that can be taken to incorporate the Native American customs and beliefs could be