Health and Healing

Though considerable diversity exists throughout Indian Country, traditional Native world views were often fundamentally different than Western and Eastern world views, having unique concepts about health and healing.

Traditionally for many American Indian and Alaska Native people, all aspects of life were viewed as intimately intertwined. Mind, body, spirit, and context are all connected, requiring harmony and balance to promote health and wellbeing. The Native Wellness Model inseparably integrates physical, emotional, social, and spiritual elements. Imbalance in any one area can manifest as sickness or disease in another. The social dimensions of health extend beyond the individual, encompassing the community, tribe, nation, and world.

The passage of time is viewed as circular, rather than linear. Decisions are made with consideration for past, present, and future generations, and focus is placed on community needs over those of the individual.

The Circle of Life recognizes the importance of all generations, giving special consideration to elders, who are relied upon to protect cultural understandings and share life lessons, and to children and youth, who are seen as safeguards of the future.

Healing requires listening and learning, finding balance in mind, body, and spirit. No two beings are the same, making the healing journey different for each person.

Traditional medicines or healing ceremonies can correct imbalance and promote harmony and personal healing. For many traditional healers, the healing process is more important than the final outcome, and the intensity of the process is more important than the duration. Traditional healing practices include consultation with elders, bringing family groups together, giving social support, prayer and song, removing dangerous spiritual influences, dietary remedies, herbal remedies, participating in ceremony, and seeking assistance from those recognized in the community as helpers.


Swinomish Tribal Mental Health Project, 2002

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