Published on December 6, 2011 by Amy
As I have been studying Native American religions, I noticed a pattern in traditional ceremonies. Almost all religious ceremonies involve healing by a medicine man. A medicine man rids of bad spirits and heals a human being through prayer, song, and certain medicines. This made me wonder what a modern day medicine man is like.
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A modern day medicine man looks like any other physician. He wears a white lab coat and a sthetoscope. In some tribes, such as the Navajo, a medicine man may not make eye contact with a patient and speak in third person when a diagnosis is an unfavorable one. Chances of survival are not discussed unless specifically asked about them. Talking about the chances of survival could be interpreted by the patient as wishing harm.
In order to become a certified physician, a medicine man must go through the same training as other physicians. The Indian Health Care Improvement Act was put in effect to help recruit doctors and help the Native Americans financially by focusing on scholarship and loan programs. The most difficult part about becoming a medicine man is having to leave the reservation to go to school. The first anatomy class requires dissecting a cadaver. Since Navajos are supposed to stay away from the dead, this is very difficult for them. Ceremonies at the reservations are conducted to prepare for the anatomy class. The people of the tribe understand that even though this pushes the person farther from traditions, it is definitely worth it in the long run.
Medicine men and other doctors are barely ever in the same hospital room. One of the only times they would be together is during birth. The medicine man calms down the woman, while a different doctor assists in the labor.
In my opinion, the contrast between medicine men and Western doctors is evident. Medicine men not only heal, but bring peace and harmony into the patient. The sole reason for the job is not only money, but there is a great connection between the healer and the patient. Even though a modern day medicine man is very much like all other doctors, traditions are still kept, showing clear differences between a Native American medicine man and all other physicians.