Native American Healing

Native American healing encompasses a very broad spectrum of practices and beliefs. These practices and beliefs vary throughout the different tribes of Native American, yet they all are generally based on spirituality, herbs, religion or a combination of all three. Native American healing practices and rituals were used to treat not only medical conditions but emotional and spiritual conditions, too.

There are many different Native American tribes. It would be impossible to list all of them in this article. It should be noted that some Native American healing practices are not even known by the general public. Many healing practices and rituals are kept as closely guarded secret among the tribes. They are only passed down from healers to the next generation of healers. What is known about Native American healing and rituals is very general and remains part of the mystery which continues to surround Native Americans.

The concept behind Native American healing is much different than Western medicine. Native Americans looked at the person as a whole and treated the individual’s entire person, instead of focusing on just the illness or ailment. As many of you know, Native Americans believe that everything is interconnected – nature, plants, animals, the Earth, sky and so on. Many Native Americans believe that everything has a spirit. If a person had an illness it was thought to be due in part to a spiritual problem.

An important part of Native American healing involved cleansing and purifying the body. Sweat lodges, special drinks and herbs were often used by tribes for the purpose of cleansing the body. Another ritual was called smudging. This is when they would “smoke” a person or a place with the smoke from a sacred herb or plant.  Sometimes the entire tribe was involved in ceremonies that were supposed to promote healing for an individual or the tribe as a whole. These ceremonies sometimes included painting their bodies, singing, praying, dancing, chanting, or taking substances that were reported to alter the mind.

Native American healing is very old. It is said to have roots in ancient East Indian and Chinese traditions. When the United States was settled many of the ancient healing practices became lost or were hidden from the whites. It was until the United States passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978 did many of these rituals and practices become “legal.”

To put it plainly, because many of the Native American healing practices are shrouded in mystery and spirituality there are few scientific studies to prove whether it is a valid form of medicine that actually heals the body. However, many people swear by Native American healing. They say it not only heals, but it calms and relieves stress. Many people who have disease or illness will incorporate it in with their Western medicine plans.

Joseph Paige 2006

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