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The Co-Existence of Traditional and Western Medicine Ways of Healing

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

Native tribes embrace a worldview that encompasses the notions of connectedness (with the past and with others), strong family bonds, adaptability, oneness with nature, wisdom of elders, meaningful traditions and strong spirit that may serve as protective factors when it comes to mental and physical health. Physical complaints and psychological concerns are not distinguished, and Native people may express emotional distress in ways that are not consistent with standard diagnostic categories of western medicine. Traditional practices emphasize communication with spirit beings and direct requests for healing.

This communication occurs through prayer, song and ceremony. Additionally, one looks for areas of disharmony and imbalance within the external community, within the community of one’s mind, and in the relationship with our bodies, the earth, the plant people, the animal people and all of creation. Healing is achieved through reaching balance and harmony in our many relationships. The approach to each person is different because each person is unique and has their own set of imbalances. By contrast, western medicine generally looks for the one treatment that targets and benefits the highest number of people with a particular disease, such as hypertension.

However, the two approaches are not incompatible. Mi’qmaq Elder Albert Marshall, of Sydney, Nova Scotia, introduced the term two-eyed seeing to describe the idea that the Indigenous and western medicine approaches can co-exist.

What are your thoughts about the opportunity for both health approaches to co-exist? Is this type of partnership possible and how can it be done?

Would you like to share with the community one of your tribe’s health and wellness customs or traditions that you feel may be a little different from other tribes?

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